Connecticut Family Violence
There are few areas of the law that impact a family more than domestic violence crimes. Over the past 15 years domestic violence has become a primary target of law enforcement and legislation. Family violence is a legitimate cause for concern, however, in the rush to eradicate the problem many people are being charged with having committed a domestic violence crime on mere allegations and without any corroborating evidence.
Family disagreements and arguments now have the potential to turn into domestic violence arrests. Spouses in divorces use the 911 call as an act of spite and to gain an advantage in their divorce (even forcing the accused spouse out of the family home). If you have just been arrested for a family violence crime, the next 24 to 48 hours are critical. You are probably scared, angry, and possibly even in a state of shock. You came to the right place because the information below will explain what to expect in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.
How does the family violence process start?
An “arrest” in Connecticut means that you have been summoned to court, it does not matter whether the police make the arrest using a warrant or doing so onsite. The police have three options when deciding to make an arrest for family violence.
- They can give you a ticket at the scene summoning you to court the next day;
- They can handcuff you, drive you to the police department, put you through routine booking procedures to process your arrest, and then provide you with something called a promise to appear in court or;
- They can bring you to the police department as described above for booking and set a bond/bail. Unless you are able to post the bond/bail set at the police department, you will be kept in a jail cell until the court’s next “business day.” This means that if you are arrested on a Friday night and cannot post your bond/bail, you might spend the entire weekend in a jail cell before going to court on Monday morning (and if Monday is a court holiday, you’ll be in that cell until Tuesday morning).
What is a family violence crime?
Family violence crime (which is Connecticut’s technical term for domestic violence crimes) is not a separate criminal offense, rather, it is a label given to any crime that is committed against a specific class of person. It can be people who are related, people who are, or were, married, people who live together, regardless of whether they’re in a romantic relationship, people who have a child together, and people who are in a dating relationship or recently ended a dating relationship.
It is not supposed to apply to verbal abuse arguments but oftentimes it is applied to those exact situations. It is also not supposed to apply to child discipline unless it rises to the level of child abuse but that line is blurry and can basically mean anything a police officer thinks it means. Common crimes that get labeled as family violence are disorderly conduct, breach of peace, assault, sexual assault, threatening, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and harassment.
Why was I arrested if my spouse didn’t want to press charges?
Every domestic violence arrest starts with someone calling the police, whether it be a spouse, kid, neighbor, or even a “Good Samaritan.” It is common for one spouse to call 911 simply because they want the police to tell their spouse to stop doing something or to send a message to their spouse. What that spouse doesn’t anticipate is that once they involve the police, the train has left the station and their say in what happens becomes an afterthought.
Once the police are involved, it is solely their decision in whether to make an arrest based on the facts, circumstances, and evidence they uncover. In other types of cases, police officers have the discretion to decide whether to even make an arrest. Take, for instance, the person walking down the street with an open alcohol container. Lots of times, the police will simply tell the person to throw it away instead of making an arrest. However, in domestic violence cases, officers are mandated by law to make an arrest if they believe that a crime has been committed. Connecticut law states that “whenever a police officer determines upon speedy information that a family violence crime has been committed … such officer shall arrest the person or persons suspected of its commission.” The emphasized word, “shall,” takes away an officer’s discretion to not make an arrest. There are some exceptions to this rule but experienced defense attorneys in Connecticut will tell you that, as a rule of thumb, the police arrest first and let the courts work out the final details later.
What happens between my arrest and the first court date?
Once a person is arrested for a domestic violence crime, a number of special protections and procedures kick in. For example, the rule that someone charged with a domestic violence crime must be arraigned the next day that courts are open is a specialized domestic violence procedure. Another special protection that is common in domestic violence cases is that, once an arrest is made, police officers will ask the victim to participate in a domestic violence lethality screening.
However, arguably the most important specialized protection is the issuance of conditions of release. If a person charged with a domestic violence crime is released from police custody on a promise to appear in court or because they posted a bond/bail, the police almost always issue certain conditions of release that will remain in place until the first court date. These conditions can prevent you from going back to your family home until the first court date, having contact with any of the individuals involved, including your own children, and leave you stranded without any access to housing or finances. If you violate these conditions, you will face a new and separate felony charge for failing to follow those rules.
A family violence arrest will give you anywhere from a few hours to a few days to prepare a defense to try and prevent getting kicked out of your own home and keeping you from your kids. Early intervention using an attorney will help preserve any necessary evidence, prevent you from saying something that might hurt you down the road, and start to prepare your case in the most favorable manner for the arraignment hearing.
The Arraignment Process (First Court Date).
The arraignment is the arrested party’s first chance to defend themselves and hear the evidence. If you cannot post bond/bail, you will go to your first court date in a police car and then through what is called a “sally port” in the lower level of the courthouse, and wait in courthouse lockup (a jail cell) until your case is called by the Judge. You will not have had a chance to shower, clean up, or change clothes. If you made bond or were released without bond (with a promise to appear), you will enter the courthouse through the front door.
In either case you will be interviewed by a family services counselor asking you about your general biographical background and the facts surrounding what happened. The same person will also contact the complaining witness/alleged victim in the case and ask them what happened. Whatever information is given to them along with any information contained within the police reports will be used by the family services counselor in making a recommendation to the court about what type of a protective order should be put in place to replace any initial conditions of release.
Protective orders can take on three forms. There are two types of partial or limited protective orders, along with a full no-contact order. First, there is a protective order commonly called “no threats or violence” which simply orders a person not to threaten, harass, assault, etc. a protected person. Second, there is a residential stay-away, which prevents you from coming within 100 yards of the victim’s residence. Finally, there is the full no-contact order, which is exactly what the name implies: you cannot communicate with the victim in any manner.
The best time to fight against the more restrictive protective orders being put in place is at the arraignment. Once they are put in place it is hard to modify them. However, the court will only allow oral argument at the arraignment and will not take any evidence or testimony. The accused can request an evidentiary hearing on the necessity of a protective order at the time of the arraignment, which must be heard by the court within two weeks of filing/request. Judges will normally follow the recommendations made by the family services counselor at the arraignment even if good reason is provided to question those recommendations. It is simply the way of the world. However, the first court date is still an opportunity to begin framing the case in the best light possible and to try and get the family services counselor to understand your side.
Is a protective order different than a restraining order?
Most people who hear the terms “protective order” or “restraining order” think they are the same thing. Although both orders deal with similar issues, i.e., restricting certain freedoms you enjoy, they are different. Whereas a protective order is issued by a judge sitting in the criminal court system of a family violence case, a civil restraining order is actually the product of our family court system. They often cover the same issues with the primary difference between the two being how they are ordered. A protective order out of criminal court is ordered by a sitting judge after reviewing the alleged facts of the case and consulting the family relations officer’s report; a restraining order out of family court is ordered after a victim applies for the order.
Ultimately, if you violate either type of order, you could be subject to further felony charges. That’s why retaining a dedicated team of criminal defense attorneys, like those at Bayer & Black, PC, can help. Not only can we help you avoid those additional charges and defend if you they happen, but we can also help you through the process of modifying any order that the criminal or family court might issue.
Hire a top domestic violence legal team today
Whether you’re facing felony or misdemeanor charges, or both, it’s critical to hire to hire a top Connecticut criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. The attorneys at Bayer & Black, PC will work diligently to resolve the case. Every avenue of defense against charges of domestic violence will be explored by our team and we will attempt to get the charges dropped or dismissed through our own fact-finding processes, negotiations with the prosecutors, guidance through Connecticut’s family violence education program, or trying your case to a jury of your peers. From the moment we’re hired, our team will explore all possible ways of resolving your case to put you in the best position to put the case behind you and move you forward with your life. You deserve no less. Your family deserves no less.
To speak with a criminal defense attorney about your case or a loved one’s, call us here at Bayer & Black, PC. At 203-762-0751. We got into this business to help people. Let us help you.
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Kevin M. Black, Sr. is a former trial level Assistant State’s Attorney (prosecutor) for the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice and the current Liaison to the Judicial District of Danbury for the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association, as well as a Member of the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee overseeing attorney misconduct. Kevin M. Black, Jr. is a former Special Deputy Assistant State’s Attorney (prosecutor) with the Appellate Unit of the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice. Both serve as approved Assigned Counsel for the Connecticut Office of the Chief Public Defender when needed. Our team has tried many cases to verdict and take cases to trial, or pretrial contested hearings, if needed. Our clients become part of our family and when you work with us, you will see and feel the care, compassion, and dedication that we put into defending our family. Don’t settle for anything less than a firm with a proven track record of success and deep experience on both sides of the process.
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Bayer & Black, P.C. is a leading, full service criminal defense firm serving Fairfield County, Hartford County, Litchfield County, Middlesex County, New Haven County, New London County, Tolland County, and Windham County residents for 25+ years. Contact us today to discuss your family violence charges in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Fairfield, Wilton, Ridgefield, Norwalk, Trumbull, Bridgeport, Milford, Weston, Danbury, Newtown, Rowayton, and receive a free consultation. In addition to Criminal Defense we also serve people threatened by DCF, defending against Restraining Orders, Divorce victims and people injured by the negligence of others or their pets (Bodily Injury).