A common bond condition and/or condition of sentence in domestic violence cases is for the Defendant to not have any contact with the complaining witness. No contact generally means no direct contact or no indirect contact. Direct contact includes activities such as face to face meetings, telephone calls, video conferencing, etc.. Indirect contact includes activities such as emails, text messages, letters, having a third party contact the complaining witness, etc. The rationale behind a no contact provision is to protect the alleged victim from harm, to allow the Defendant to seek counseling to address the behavior that lead to the alleged assault (which, of course, is contrary to the presumption of innocence that the Defendant is supposed to maintain), and to help ensure that the testimony of the complaining witness is not tainted through further contact with the Defendant or by the influence of the Defendant. It should be noted that no contact provisions are not limited to domestic violence cases, and can be a condition of bond and/or sentence for just about any criminal matter.
No Contact Provisions in Domestic Violence Cases
In many domestic violence situations, once the emotions have settled, the complaining witness no longer wishes to pursue a criminal allegation. In some situations this is due to the allegation being made to seem more serious than it really was because of the inflamed passions of the parties at the time of the police involvement. Sometimes the complaining witness lied to the police about what occurred (because of anger, child care issues, jealousy, etc.) and does not want to risk being accused of perjury or alternatively for making a false police report. In other situations the complaining witness does not want to pursue the matter because of the mentality that some people have to blame themselves for domestic violence, and/or feel a psychological need to continue their relationship with an abuser. Sometimes an alleged victim believes that the matter is a family situation that should not involve the Courts. Sometimes the complaining witness realizes that a domestic violence conviction can impact the Defendant’s career (by losing a job, losing an ability to be licensed for a job, losing ability to maintain a concealed weapons permit or ability to possess a firearm, etc.) which hurts his or her bottom line because of the financial support that the Defendant provides. For persons that are not citizens, a criminal conviction can lead to removal from the United States depending upon the circumstances, which also can influence the alleged victim’s thinking. In short, there are many reasons why the alleged victim may not wish to pursue a criminal complaint.
The attitude of most Prosecutors is that they do not care about what the alleged victim wants because the Prosecutor theoretically represents all the people of the community. Many Prosecutors feel that they have to protect victims of domestic violence and remove him victims from a cycle of violence. Also, to not pursue charges may have a negative impact on the morale of police officers who, in the Prosecutors’ minds, work solely to protect the community. County prosecutors are elected officials and are fearful that someone who they chose not to prosecute could end up committing a more serious (and newsworthy) crime against their spouse or significant other. City and Local Prosecutors are often hired by the city (with the Court having influence on the hiring process) and do not want to do anything that could lead to their contract not being renewed or otherwise losing their jobs. Many Judges are far from neutral and lean towards the Prosecution in their rationales and judgment. Although rare and not done by most Prosecutors and/or Courts, it is not unheard of for some Prosecutors and/or some Courts to use no contact provisions coercively to encourage the criminal case to resolve by means of a plea and not through trial.
A no contact provision can cause a financial and emotional hardship on families when a spouse or significant other is forced to move out of the home Most families do not have the financial ability to pay rent or a mortgage, and to pay out of pocket for a hotel room. This expense also is on top of the expense of hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer. In some instances a parent also faces a child care issue because of the no contact provision. Children are often confused as to why they can no longer see a parent, or role model, and may feel guilt for calling or speaking with the police on the date of the alleged offense. Hence, a no contact provision often unintentionally victimizes children. Many alleged victims of domestic violence are not seeking the end of the relationship with the Defendant, and in many instances simply want the Defendant to get some counseling so that the alleged conduct isn’t repeated.
Courts have many approaches to no contact provisions, and often the approach depends upon the alleged facts of the case. Sometimes the Court will amend the no contact provision to a no assaultive contact provision. Sometimes the Court will allow only public contact, or contact when supervised by others. Sometimes the Court only allows contact relative to child care issues or the exchange of children between parents. In some instances the Court will not allow contact until the Defendant is enrolled in counseling or anger management courses. In most instances, the Court wants to hear from the alleged victim before deciding the issue. If the complaining witness does not want contact with the Defendant, in most instances the Court will not allow contact.
A violation of a no contact provision while the Defendant is on bond can lead to the revocation of bond and incarceration. A violation of a no contact provision which is part of a sentence imposed upon a Defendant can lead to a violation of probation which can lead to incarceration.
It is not uncommon for an alleged victim to also obtain a Personal Protection Order against the Defendant. The protection afforded by a Personal Protection Order might be different from a bond condition or a sentence. A Defendant with a bond or sentencing condition of no contact, and a Personal Protection Order that restricts contact, must honor both. A violation of either can lead to incarceration. An experienced lawyer can attempt to have the Personal Protection Order dismissed when it was wrongfully imposed, or modified when necessary.
Persons facing criminal allegations should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer, such as Attorney Daniel Hilf, may be the best decision that you can make for yourself and your family. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can:
1. Attempt to have bond lowered or modified – including no contact provisions;
2. Fight the charges to try and gain a dismissal of the charge, or an acquittal at trial;
3. Negotiate a speedy and satisfactory plea bargain and/or sentence bargain when appropriate and available;
4. Address sentencing (when applicable) to attempt to gain a lenient sentence and favorable terms of sentence.