Location:
CRIMINAL STATISTICS; DOMESTIC VIOLENCE;

OLR Research Report


October 7, 2009

 

2009-R-0367

FAMILY VIOLENCE STATISTICS

By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney

You wanted to know (1) the number of people with restraining orders against them in the past five years and (2) how many of these people violated the order by committing a crime against the victim of family violence (i.e., person who obtained the order), including crimes resulting in bodily harm.

SUMMARY

Connecticut courts can issue a variety of different orders to protect victims of family violence who fear for their safety from threatened or further harm. Among these are protective and restraining orders. 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.

Restraining orders are issued in civil proceedings whether or not the offender is arrested. Protective orders are criminal and are issued after the accused has been arrested for committing a family violence crime. However, courts may issue standing criminal restraining orders when they believe the history and character of the offender and circumstances warrant it.

According to the Judicial Department, the number of restraining orders issued between 2004 and 2008 fluctuated by year. In 2008 there were 7,970. During this same four-year time period, the number of prosecutions for criminal violation of a restraining order ranged from 284 in 2004 to 694 in 2007. And the number of prosecutions for violation of a standing criminal restraining order ranged from 124 in 2007 to 161 in 2005. The number of prosecutions does not represent the number of people prosecuted, but rather the number of cases.  One person may have been prosecuted for the same offense multiple times in the same year.  An individual may also be charged with a number of different crimes in the same case; therefore, prosecutors may agree to have some charges dismissed in exchange for a plea of guilty to other charges.

A person commits criminal violation of a restraining order when he or she violates such an order. A person is guilty of violation of a standing criminal restraining order when he or she violates a standing criminal restraining order, which may be issued after a conviction of a number of crimes, including criminal violation of a restraining order. We are unable to determine whether these violations involved physical harm to the family violence victims.

BACKGROUND

Connecticut Family Violence Law

By law, “family violence” is an incident between family or household members that either causes physical injury or creates fear that physical injury is about to occur.  Verbal abuse or argument is not considered family violence unless there is present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur.  The discipline of minor children by parents or guardians is not considered family violence unless abuse occurs. Family violence is not a distinct criminal offense.  Crimes that may be charged as a family violence offense include assault, kidnapping, and sexual assault.  Those who engage in violence against a spouse or family member can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case.

“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 whether or not they are or have been married or have lived together; and people in, or who were recently in, a dating relationship (CGS 46b-38a).

Restraining Orders

Any family or household member who has been subjected to a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury by a family or household member may apply to the Superior Court for a restraining order by filing an application and affidavit that states the condition from which relief is sought. The court must hold a hearing within 14 days of receipt of the application and give the alleged offender at least five days notice before the hearing.  But the court may issue an order without notice or hearing if there is an immediate and present physical danger to the applicant (i.e., ex parte order).  

The court may include in the order any provisions necessary to protect the victim from injury or intimidation, including requirements for temporary child custody or visitation rights.  Orders typically prohibit the offender from assaulting, threatening, molesting, or restraining the victim or entering the family's or victim's dwelling.

The order is effective for six months unless the court extends it upon the applicant's or its own motion.  Anyone violating the order can be held in contempt of court.  Additionally, entering or remaining on property in violation of the order constitutes first-degree criminal trespass.  

Lastly, a person is guilty of criminal violation of a restraining order when he or she is the target of a restraining order; knows the terms of the order; and violates the order by contacting, failing to stay away from, restraining, or threatening or assaulting another person.  Criminal violation of a restraining order is a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both (CGS 46b-15 and 53a-223b).

Standing Criminal Restraining Order

Courts may issue standing criminal restraining orders, in addition to any sentence of incarceration, against people convicted of the following crimes committed against a family or household member:

1. first and second degree assault;

2. first and second degree assault of a victim age 60 or older;

3. second and third degree assault with a firearm;

4. second degree assault of a victim age 60 or older with a firearm;

5. sexual assault;

6. first degree aggravated sexual assault;

7. sexual assault in a spousal or cohabiting relationship;

8. stalking; and

9. criminal violation of a protective or restraining order.

The court may issue the order when it believes the offender's history and character and the nature and circumstances of the offense indicate that the order will best serve the interest of the victim and the public. The order remains in effect until the court modifies or revokes it for good cause. Among other things, the order may enjoin the offender from (1) restraining, threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the victim; or (2) entering the victim's home.  The law specifies some of the language that must appear in the order, including the penalty for a violation and the fact that it must remain in effect until altered by the court.  Violation of a standing criminal restraining order is a class D felony (CGS 53a-40e and 53a-223a).

When the subject of a standing criminal restraining order is released from prison or completes his term of probation or parole, the commissioner of correction or the parole or probation officer must notify or remind the offender of the order's existence, the terms of the order, and the penalty for violation.  They must give the offender a copy of the order (CGS 53a-40e).

JUDICIAL STATISTICS

By law, the chief court administrator must keep an automated registry of restraining and protective orders (CGS 51-5c). Table 1 shows the number of restraining orders included in the registry from 2004 to 2008. Table 2 shows the number of prosecutions and dispositions for criminal violation of a restraining order and criminal violation of a standing criminal restraining order.

TABLE 1: RESTRAINING ORDERS ISSUED BY YEAR

Year

Total

Orders

Ex Parte Orders

Orders Issued After a Hearing

2008

7,970

5,137

2,833

2007

7,881

5,159

2,722

2006

9,198

6,036

3,162

2005

9,318

5,998

3,320

2004

9,566

6,146

3,420

TABLE 2: PROSECUTIONS FOR CRIMINAL VIOLATION OF RESTRAINING ORDERS

Crime

Total Offenses

Guilty

Not Guilty

Nolled or Dismissed

Criminal Violation of a Restraining Order

2008: 660

2007: 694

2006: 664

2005: 501

2004: 284

133

160

172

149

97

1

1

0

1

0

526

533

492

351

187

Violation of a Standing Criminal Restraining Order

2008: 142

2007: 124

2006: 126

2005: 161

2004: 137

27

34

23

34

30

0

1

0

0

0

115

89

103

127

107

SNE:ts