How is Domestic Violence Defined in Connecticut?
In the state of Connecticut, domestic violence (also known as “family violence”) occurs between family or household members, and involves physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or a threat of violence that causes fear of imminent physical harm, assault or a physical injury. The legal system takes charge of domestic violence extremely seriously. In fact, once the police have been called, the situation is often out of the hands of the individuals, and law enforcement will make a decision on whether or not to make an arrest. Once an individual is placed in the system, their case will be scrutinized very closely and a laborious process may result.
Connecticut defines “family or household members” as:
- Current or former spouses
- Individuals over the age of 18 and related by blood or marriage
- Individuals over the age of 16 who are currently or formerly residing together
- Individuals who have a child together
- Individuals who are currently or were formerly dating
Domestic Violence Arrests
When the police respond to a call for a domestic situation, they are mandated to make an arrest if they believe there is probable cause that a domestic violence-related crime has occurred – even if tensions have eased by the time that they arrive, and the victim does not want to “press charges.”
Any person arrested for a domestic violence offense will be required to appear in court the next business day for an arraignment and criminal protective order hearing. A criminal protective order is a court order that protects the victim of a domestic violence crime from further injury or abuse by the accused person while the case is ongoing.
When a person is not held in custody following a domestic violence arrest, the police will issue temporary conditions of release that are enforced until the time of the arraignment. These temporary conditions may include:
- orders to surrender firearms and ammunition
- orders to protect and limit contact with the victim
- could prohibit an arrested person from returning to their home
There are several criminal offenses that fall within the scope of family violence between any of the aforementioned family or household members. This includes:
- Assault: This covers a range of different levels of injury, some of which may include the use of a weapon.
- Threats: This includes threatening to commit a crime with a hazardous substance or threatening physical abuse.
- Stalking: This includes crimes in which an individual follows you, which causes you to fear for your safety or for the safety of others.
- Sexual Assault: There are several domestic violence crimes that are covered by this category, including marital rape.
- Breach of Peace
- Disorderly Conduct
- Risk of Injury to a Minor
- Criminal Violation of a Restraining and/or Protective Order
Domestic Violence Arraignment Process in CT
Depending on the time and date of a domestic violence arrest, the arraignment may take place the same day or will be scheduled for the next business day. It is crucial to protect yourself at this stage of a domestic violence case, as the result of the initial appearance could lead to several restrictions on your rights and other conditions that may remain in effect for the duration of your case, which could be several months.
The arraignment process for domestic violence cases involves a lengthy and thorough case-screening process by Family Relations officers, including an interview about the alleged offense – where anything you say could potentially be used against you!
Family Relations Officers
Family Relations will review the police report and conduct a screening for risk of continued violence, including:
- interviewing the victim of the offense
- a review of criminal records
- prior orders of protection
- a check of handguns and firearm registries
Family Relations then reports its initial impressions and recommendations to the court regarding the severity of the case, including what level of protective order should be ordered, and any other treatment or services that they feel are necessary and appropriate.
Types of Protective Orders in Connecticut
Every domestic violence case in Connecticut involves some level of a criminal protective order – which can result in extreme hardship where a person is ordered to have no contact with their spouse, and in some cases their children, and may even be ordered to vacate their own home for a significant period of time.
There are three basic types of protective orders that may be issued:
- Full, No-Contact order: This is the most restrictive protective order that may be issued and forbids any type of contact including: verbal, physical, electronic, or third-party;
- Residential Stay-Away order: This is a less restrictive form, which allows for contact but prohibits a person from going to the home of the protected person; and,
- Partial Protective order: This is the least restrictive form and allows for contact and even cohabitation, but prohibits any harassment, assaultive, or threatening behavior toward the protected person.
Once a protective order has been issued, it remains in effect until the case reaches a final conclusion, or until the court orders otherwise. In addition to a protective order, at an arraignment for a domestic violence case, the court can impose additional conditions of your release, such as mandated treatment and ongoing supervision. Any violation of criminal protective order or the conditions of release can result in further arrests and additional charges for criminal and domestic-related offenses. Violations of this nature are considered very serious by prosecutors and judges alike, and can severely complicate an ongoing case.
Consequences of Domestic Violence Cases
Not only does an arrest for a domestic violence case carries the potential for conviction and jail time, but oftentimes the fallout of these cases can trickle into many different aspects of a person’s life: causing issues for employment, travel, and general harm to their reputation. For example, in cases where children are present during the alleged offense, it is likely that DCF will be contacted and will initiate its own investigation that could lead to additional legal issues.
Investigating Every Aspect of Your Case
Our goal is to extensively investigate every aspect of the events that led up to an arrest being made. We will look over witness statements and police reports to find inconsistencies, see if law enforcement prompted certain responses, and determine if the accuser made false allegations or was even an aggressor themselves. Protecting your rights throughout the process is a top priority, and we will do everything possible to have the charges either reduced or dropped, and your protective order eliminated or modified.
At The Sills Law Firm, our Connecticut domestic violence attorneys understand that domestic violence cases are often highly complex. In the heat of the moment, things are said and charges are made that may not be entirely true or outright false. In addition to this, calls to the police may be made when the calling individual simply wants to scare the other person. Unfortunately, this will, many times, lead to an arrest that neither party wants made. If you are facing domestic violence charges, you could be looking at time in jail or prison, significant fines, probationary restrictions, and even the loss of your rights as a parent.