September 27, 2007
By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney
You asked if the law requires the person requesting a protective order to keep his or her distance from the person who is the target of the order. You also asked if any other state places such a requirement.
Connecticut courts can issue a variety of different protective and restraining orders to protect crime victims who fear for their safety from threatened or further harm. These orders may, among other things, prohibit criminal defendants or respondents from restraining, threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the victim, or entering the victim's home.
None of the orders require crime victims to keep their distance from abusers or potential abusers. In fact, all but one of the orders are issued as a part of criminal proceedings, intended to control the conduct of criminal defendants. Restraining orders are civil orders.
We are unaware of any state that includes such a requirement on crime victims. We include copies of protective order forms in Connecticut, Colorado, and Utah as examples of the orders courts issue. For links to laws on protective or restraining orders in other states, visit http://www.womenslaw.org.
Courts can issue protective orders whenever a person is arrested for stalking (CGS § 54-1k). Stalking involves the willful and repeated following or lying in wait for another person. The perpetrator must either intend to cause his target to fear for his or her physical safety or recklessly cause this response (CGS §§ 53a-181c, -181d, and –181e). A court can also issue a protective order when someone is arrested for 1st or 2nd degree harassment if the crime victim reasonably feared for his or her safety (CGS § 54-1k).
The protective order may include provisions necessary to protect the victim from threats, harassment, injury, or intimidation by the perpetrator, including but not limited to prohibiting him or her from (1) imposing any restraint on the person or liberty of the victim; (2) threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, or sexually assaulting the victim; or (3) entering the victim's dwelling. Violating such orders is a crime. It also violates a condition of the arrestee's bail or release and may result in raising the amount of bail or revoking release.
In family violence cases, the judge can, among other things, issue a protective order to protect the parties. The protective order is made a condition of the defendant's bail or release. Family violence is an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent harm between family or household members. Verbal abuse or argument is not family violence unless there is present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur (CGS §§ 46b-38a, -38c).
Violators of the orders are guilty of a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both (CGS § 53a-223).
A family or household member that has been subjected to a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury by another family or household member or person in a dating relationship can apply to the Superior Court for a restraining order (CGS § 46b-15).
The court can make appropriate orders to protect the applicant and dependent children or others, including temporary child custody or visitation rights. It can enjoin the person from imposing any restraint on the person or liberty of the applicant; threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the applicant; entering the family dwelling or the applicant's dwelling. The court can issue an immediate ex parte order as appropriate if the applicant alleges immediate and present physical danger.
Orders are for up to six months and may be extended for additional time as the court finds necessary on the applicant's motion.
The law contains procedural provisions including notice of the hearing and distributing copies of an order to certain law enforcement agencies (CGS § 46b-15).
Violators of the orders are guilty of a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both (CGS § 53a-223b).
STANDING CRIMINAL RESTRAINING ORDER
Courts issue these orders in certain criminal cases to protect crime victims from future harm. The orders may, among other things, prohibit the offender from restraining, threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the victim, or entering the victim's home. The criminal cases covered are those involving the commission of, or attempt or conspiracy to commit:
1. 1st and 2nd degree assault;
2. 1st and 2nd degree assault of an aged, blind, disabled, pregnant, or mentally retarded person;
3. 2nd degree assault with a firearm;
4. 2nd degree assault with a firearm of an aged, blind, disabled, pregnant, or mentally retarded person;
5. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree sexual assault;
6. aggravated 1st degree sexual assault;
7. 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm;
8. sexual assault in a spousal or cohabitating relationship;
10. 1st or 2nd degree harassment;
11. a family violence crime; and
12. criminal violation of a (a) protective (b) restraining order or (c) standing criminal restraining order (CGS § 53a-40e, as amended by PA 07-123).
The court must find that (1) the victim is a member of the offender's family or household member and (2) the order will best serve the victim and public's interest given the history, character, nature, and circumstances of the crime. Standing criminal restraining orders are effective until the court modifies or revokes them (CGS § 53a-40e).
The law also permits a court to issue a standing criminal restraining order when a person is convicted of any crime against a family or household member, rather than just the one listed. In these cases, the court may issue the order for good cause shown and does not have to find the order to be in the best interest of the victim or the public (PA 07-123).
Violators of the orders are guilty of a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both (CGS § 53a-223a).
DEFINITION OF FAMILY OR HOUSEHOLD MEMBER
“Family or household members” are spouses, former spouses, parents and their children, people age 18 or older related by blood or marriage, people age 16 or older either living together or who have lived together, people who have a child together, and people in or formerly in a dating relationship (CGS § 46b-38a).