Modifying Your Connecticut Domestic Violence Protective / Restraining Order

If you are arrested for a Connecticut domestic violence crime in Connecticut, you will be ordered to report to the nearest Connecticut Superior Court on the next business morning for a Connecticut protective order/restraining order hearing. Your first domestic violence court appearance can be a whirlwind of anxiety, fear, and legal procedures that fly way over your head.

As the best lawyers know, at this first court hearing, it’s likely the Connecticut Superior Court will issue some form of a criminal protective order against you while your Connecticut domestic violence arrest is pending. The short turnaround time for your court date does not give you much time to hire a criminal attorney who can assist you at your first Connecticut domestic violence court date. As a result, lawyers often see stiff domestic violence restraining and protective orders being slapped on people who get railroaded through their first day of court. But there’s hope for these people—the court has procedures in place that give you a chance to have a full evidentiary hearing that allow you to move the court to modify or eliminate the Connecticut domestic violence protective order that was slapped on you so quickly at your first court date. Keep reading to learn more about how a top Connecticut domestic violence lawyer can help you convince the court to modify your Connecticut domestic violence arrest criminal protective order, which will ultimately allow you to start the process of healing within your family.

Difference Between Protective Orders and Restraining Orders

Criminal protective orders and civil restraining orders in Connecticut serve the same purpose – to protect a Connecticut domestic violence victim from abuse, harassment or threats of violence. The legal distinction between a Connecticut criminal protective order and a Connecticut civil restraining order is subtle, and really has to do with (1) the court that issues the order, and (2) the length of the order. A criminal protective order is issued by a Connecticut criminal court in connection with a domestic violence crime that you are accused of committing. These orders are issued on your first court date for your Connecticut domestic violence arrest and terminate on the earlier date of when the judge modifies or terminates the order, or when your criminal case concludes.

In contrast, Connecticut civil restraining orders are issued by the family and civil courts in Connecticut and do not necessarily stem from an arrest. Instead, civil restraining orders are issued in response to an application made by an alleged victim of abuse. A Connecticut restraining order judge will review an application for a civil restraining order, may grant temporary relief, and will then schedule an evidentiary hearing in order to determine whether a more permanent and lengthier order should be entered against you. At this hearing, you and your attorney are entitled to call witnesses, present electronic and documentary evidence to the judge, and make legal arguments in support of your application for a Connecticut restraining order. A civil restraining order can only be issued for a maximum time period of one year.

Types of Protective Orders

Once issued, Connecticut criminal protective orders and Connecticut civil restraining order are nearly identical in format and substance. There are three types of restraining / protective orders. The most restrictive is a “Full No Contact” order. This prohibits any type of communication or contact with the alleged victim. There are no exceptions to a Full No Contact protective / restraining order, unless the judge explicitly writes them out on the order. Sometimes these orders can even prohibit you from having contact with your own children. Less restrictive than the “Full No Contact” order is the “Full” or “Residential Stay-Away” order. This type of order allows contact, but prevents you from entering the alleged victim’s home or place of work. Finally there is the “Limited” or “Partial” restraining order, which prohibits violence, harassment or threats of violence, but otherwise permits physical and verbal contact with your accuser, and allows you to enter the accuser’s home and workplace.

Making Modifications

Violating a Connecticut restraining / protective order is a Class D felony and can expose your to up to 5 years in prison, even if you committed a minor technical violation of a Connecticut protective or restraining order, such as texting or emailing your accuser about a child care issue. That’s why modifying your Connecticut domestic violence protective order or modifying your Connecticut civil restraining order is always a good idea. The first step to modifying your restraining / protective order is to consult with an attorney who can advise you on the best approach to filing a motion to modify the order. They would likely explain that your modification motion should set forth the most compelling factual and legal arguments to justify your request, which is often called a “Motion for a Fernando A. Hearing,” named after a landmark restraining order modification case in Connecticut law. Once filed, you will be notified of a court date for your Connecticut restraining / protective order modification hearing.

While you are waiting for your hearing date, you or your attorney will open the lines of communication with the many parties and court officials who will assist the court in making a decision on your motion. These parties include the Connecticut court’s family relations officers, the domestic violence victim advocates, state prosecutors, the bail commissioner, DCF workers, and other court officers involved in conducting a risk assessment for the judge to determine if it is safe for the court to modify your restraining order. Your lawyer will also line up your witnesses for the hearing, including your own therapists, psychologists and family members who can testify on your behalf and confirm to the court that you are neither a physical nor emotional threat to your accuser, or anyone else in your family.

You will also have to meet with the Office of Family Relations.  During any one of these meetings, the officer might ask you directed questions about the domestic violence incident, the status of your contact with the alleged victim, and any efforts you have made to rehabilitate yourself. Remember that anything you say to the family relations worker can be brought to the judge’s attention – even if it hurts your case.

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