What you need to know about Domestic Violence Crime in Connecticut.
In Connecticut, domestic violence cases are treated differently than other criminal matters. Allegations of domestic violence can dramatically affect your family, job and reputation. An arrest for a domestic violence offense may have serious implication on custody or divorce proceedings. Being charged with a domestic violence crime can result in a Protective Order being issued, and can affect your right to possess firearms, require you to stay away from your home, and may impact your ability to see your children.
If you have been charged with any type of domestic violence or abuse, you need to understand the process and how to protect your rights. Consult with law partners Audrey Felsen and Bruce Koffsky at Koffsky & Felsen, LLC if you have any questions about a domestic violence case or if you need representation in a domestic or family matter. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling domestic matters throughout the state. We have a thorough understanding of how to handle domestic violence cases in Connecticut courts and work with our clients to decide the best court of actions based on your individual circumstances. If you or a loved one is charged with a domestic violence crime, ensure you understand how to proceed and what you can to do protect your rights.
A domestic violence offense can involve anyone with whom you share a domestic relationship.
It can be a spouse, former spouse, significant other, former significant other, or family member. You do not have to be living in the same household for the Court to consider that you share a domestic relationship with another person.
A crime of violence is considered any act of violence, or any offense where there is a likelihood that violence will result.
You can be charged with a family, or domestic violence, offense, even if you are involved in a verbal altercation.
Domestic violence offenses include:
- Breach of Peace
If law enforcement respond to a domestic violence incident, you may be required to leave your house and prohibited from contacting the protected party.
Connecticut has a dominant aggressor law. This means that if law enforcement responds to a domestic violence incident and determines that you or your loved one is the dominant aggressor, that person will get arrested.
What to expect if you are charged with a Domestic Violence Crime.
Immediately following an arrest for a domestic violence offense, you will be required to relinquish any firearms you have in the house or possess and must do so within 24 hours.
Any firearms that are confiscated or relinquished at the time of the arrest must be returned to their owner within 7 seven days unless otherwise ordered by the Court.
If issued a Protective Order or restraining order, you will still be prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms.
If you have children, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) will get involved.
Police are required to contact DCF when children are affected, either directly or indirectly, in a family violence offense. A caseworker will be assigned to your case and will contact you to schedule a time to meet with you, the complainant (also called the victim or protected party) and your children.
You have a right to be represented and have your attorney present when you meet with the DCF caseworker.
You should talk to your attorney before speaking with anyone from DCF.
It is in your interest to comply with the DCF investigation, as the result of those proceedings may impact your ability to volunteer with children, or coach a children’s sports team.
If you are charged with a domestic violence offense, you will be required to appear in court the next business day. Once charged with a domestic violence crime, you will be expected to meet with a representative from Family Services following your arrest.
Before you do this, contact an attorney. Family Services and/or the victim’s advocate will actively participate in the criminal proceedings. Any information you provide and anything you say is not confidential, and it is crucial that you discuss your case with your attorney before providing any information to any family services representative. You should not discuss the facts of your case, or anything related to your pending matter without your attorney present. Your attorney should accompany you when you meet with any representative from Family Services.
Family Services also contacts and meets with the complainant to discuss the circumstances surrounding the arrest, any underlying issues that led to the incident and any concerns that the complainant has going forward.
Your Initial Court Appearance
At your first court appearance, a Family Services representative will provide input to the Court regarding any safety concerns the complainant and/or Family Services has related to your situation.
Sometimes the complainant and Family Services take different positions regarding safety concerns or whether a Protective Order should be issued during the pendency of the criminal case.
The Court may issue a Full Protective Order, Partial Protective Order or a Residential Stay Away:
- A Full Protective Orderis an order of the Court that you must not have any contact with the named party/parties in any way. That may mean that you have to move out of your residence, and/or that you cannot visit, call, email, text, or communicate, directly or through third parties, the protected party/parties.
- A Partial Protective Orderis an order of the Court that you must not assault, threaten, abuse, harass, follow, interfere with or stalk the protected person. It may also include a residential stay away, meaning you must stay away from wherever the protected person resides, even if that is also your residence.
- A Residential Stay Away is an order of the Court that you not enter or stay at the home of the protected person. The residence may be your home, and it is possible that the Court will order you not to enter your home until the Protective Order is modified or your criminal matter is resolved.
For more details about the different types of Protective Orders click here.
If the Court has issued a Full Protective Order, you cannot communicate with the protected party, or parties, even if they initiate contact.
If the protected party shows up at a location and you are there, you must leave that location and notify your attorney immediately.
If the protected party attempts to call, text or email you, or attempts to reach out to you on social media or through a third party, you must not respond and must notify counsel.
If you accidentally come into contact with that person, you should walk away or terminate the interaction and contact your attorney immediately.
At your arraignment, or first court appearance, you can request a hearing about the necessity of a Protective Order.
This is also known as a Fernando A. Hearing, pursuant to State of Connecticut v. Fernando A. At this hearing, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to prove that the Protective Order put in place at your arraignment is necessary to ensure the safety of the protected party.
A violation of a Protective Order is considered a separate crime.
It is a Class D felony, and you could face up to five years in jail if you are convicted of this offense. You must abide by the conditions of any Protective Order until, and unless, it is modified by the Court or your criminal case is resolved.
The Court may also impose non-financial conditions of your release that the Court deems necessary to protect the public or ensure the complainant’s safety.
These conditions may include location monitoring and/or pretrial supervision by a probation officer.
The Court can also require as a condition of release that you participate in substance abuse counseling or anger management.
Your attorney can file a motion to modify the Protective Order at any time.
A Protective Order is an order of the Court, it cannot be modified by the complainant.
We can help you determine what you need to do to modify the conditions of a Protective Order. If you want to contest or modify any Protective Order or condition of release, your attorney can file a motion with the Court and schedule a hearing at the next available court date. You are legally entitled to a hearing on this motion, and to present evidence related to the necessity of a Protective Order and cross examine any witnesses. The Court will seek input from your attorney, the prosecutor, the bail commissioner, and a victim’s advocate or representative from Family Services regarding the modification.
The Court can modify the Protective Order to allow you to visit or share custody of your children or change the Full Protective Order to a Partial Protective Order, meaning you can have contact with the protected party but cannot threaten, harass or otherwise harm the named individual.
If you are required to participate in any treatment and/or meet with probation as a condition of your release, you must continue to do so until your attorney files a motion to modify or until the Court enters an order indicating that you have satisfied that condition.
Resolving your Domestic Violence case
In certain circumstances, the Court may require you to participate in a Court-approved domestic violence program such as the Evolve or Explore Program:
- The EXPLORE Program is also a group-based program for men who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes against female intimate partners. EXPLORE is a 26-week program (usually post-conviction, as part of a sentence/condition of probation) for family violence offenders. Each session lasts for an hour and a half and is based on a cognitive behavioral therapeutic framework. The focus of the program is to foster behavioral change through developing awareness, building positive interpersonal skills, and promoting the understanding of the harmful effects family violence has on victims and children. EXPLORE is available in all court locations.
- The EVOLVE Program is a behavior modification group-based program for male offenders convicted of domestic violence crimes against female intimate partners. EVOLVE is a 26-week, 52 session post-conviction program. It is an intensive cognitive behavioral intervention program designed for high-risk family violence offenders (male only), which centers on victims and children, behavior change, interrelation and communication skill building, and responsible parenting/fatherhood. Groups meet for two hours each session. EVOLVE is currently available in Bridgeport, New Haven, New London, and Waterbury.
You may be eligible to participate in a diversionary program, called the Family Violence Education Program (FVEP).
If you are granted this program, your criminal case will be diverted, and you will participate in a nine-week pretrial/diversionary program that gives eligible defendants the chance to attend programs that provide education about family violence.
If you apply for the program, notice is sent to the complainant and he or she has an opportunity to come to court to indicate whether they are support or oppose your application.
The program is discretionary, meaning the Court decides whether to grant or deny your application into the program.
The FVEP meets once a week for an hour and a half. The FVEP is currently available in all 20 courthouses in Connecticut. Sometimes, we are able to get approval for our clients to participate in a comparable treatment program, either with an individual treatment provider or in another program in another state/location. This often happens when clients have childcare or work commitments that make it difficult to participate in a program that meets on a regular weekly schedule.
If your case is resolved with a guilty plea, the Court may enter a Standing Criminal Protective Order as part of your sentence. If the complainant, Family Services representative or prosecutor requests a Standing Criminal Protective Order, the Court will consider input regarding the need for the order and what length of time is necessary to ensure the complainant’s safety.