Domestic charges sometimes result when complex family issues get out of control. These cases are handled on a separate docket than other types of criminal cases and often have family law implications (such as divorce and/or custody). If you have been accused of or charged with any type of domestic violence or abuse, having a knowledgeable and skilled lawyer on your side is essential.
At Koffsky & Felsen, LLC, we approach every domestic case with the intention of helping families and domestic partners resolve their issues, while still protecting their rights throughout the criminal proceedings. Our attorneys have a thorough understanding of all of the Connecticut laws that govern domestic violence cases and will take the time to explain your rights to you within the context of the charges you are facing.
In some domestic violence situations, accusations of abuse or assault are false. Alleged victims may make false reports when trying to gain the upper hand in a child custody dispute or divorce situation. These false allegations are extremely serious, as restraining orders or protective orders can be issued and may have a drastic impact on your life. It affects your right to possess firearms, to remain in your home, and sometimes to even see your children. Our firm works tirelessly to investigate each and every case to defend against these allegations and successfully resolve your domestic case.
What you need to know if arrested for a Domestic Violence Crime in Connecticut:
1. 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.
2. A crime of violence is considered any act of violence, or any offense where there is a likelihood that violence will result. Domestic violence offenses include:
· Breach of Peace
3. 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, you should contact an attorney immediately. 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 the complainant and meets with them to discuss the incident that led to the arrest, any underlying issues that precipitated the incident, and any concerns that the complainant has going forward. Family Services and/or the victim’s advocate will actively participate in the criminal proceedings. Any information you provide and anything you say can be held against you, and you must protect your right not to incriminate yourself.
4. At your first court appearance, the Court will receive input from the Family Services office regarding any safety concerns the complainant and/or Family Services has related to the situation. There are situations where 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 or a Partial Protective Order:
· A Full Protective Order is an order of the Court that you may not have any contact with the named party/parties in any way. That may mean that you are required to move out of your residence, that you cannot visit, call, email, text, or communicate, directly or through third parties, the protected party/parties.
· A Partial Protective Order is 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 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. Therefore, it is imperative that you abide by the conditions of any Protective Order until, and unless, it is modified by the Court or your criminal case is resolved. If the Court has issued a Full Protective Order, you cannot communicate with the protected 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. A Protective Order is an order of the Court, it cannot be modified by the complainant, and even if the protected party wants to initiate contact, or if you accidentally come into contact with that person, you should walk away or terminate the interaction and contact your attorney immediately.
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.
5. Immediately following an arrest for a domestic violence offense, you will also be required to relinquish any firearms you might have in the house 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 ordered otherwise by the Court. If issued a Protective Order or restraining order, you will still be prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms.
6. 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, pretrial supervision by a probation officer, and/or participation in treatment. The Court can require as a condition of release that you participate in substance abuse counseling or anger management.
7. In addition to the above conditions, 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.
More information about these programs can be found on the CT Judicial website regarding Domestic Violence FAQs.
8. You may also be eligible for the Family Violence Education Program (FVEP), which is 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 in support or opposed to the Court granting the program. The program is discretionary, meaning the Court decides whether to grant or deny the application into the program. The FVEP meets once a week for an hour and a half each session. The FVEP is currently available in all 20 courthouses in Connecticut. Sometimes, our clients are unable to attend weekly meetings because of their work schedule, or because they reside out of state. In these situations, we are able to find a comparable alternative so that the FVEP requirements can be filled by meeting with an individual counselor or through a program in another state/location.
9. The Court may enter a Standing Criminal Protective Order as part of your sentence. If the complainant and/or a representative from Family Services and/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. As a result, there is no limit to how long a Standing Criminal Protective Order can last.
10. If you get arrested for a domestic violence crime, it is important to know your rights and contact an attorney immediately. Every stage in the process is critical. It is important to preserve any evidence that may support your position or assist your attorney in preparing your case. If you have pictures, text messages, emails, or any other documentation that would be useful, take immediate steps to preserve that information and provide it to your attorney. If you want to retain an attorney to assist you with this process, or if you have any questions related to domestic violence charges, you can contact our office at 203-327-1500.