Topic:
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE;
Location:
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


OLR RESEARCH REPORT

January 5, 1999

 

99-R-0031

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

 
 

By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Senior Attorney

You wanted a summary of the family violence laws and a summary of all major changes to the laws by year.

SUMMARY

Since 1977, Connecticut has had laws designed to protect spouses from domestic abuse. Initially, the law sought to provide this protection by authorizing courts to grant protective orders. In 1986, Connecticut enacted a comprehensive family violence act. The law defines family violence, gives police officers and courts directions on handling family violence cases, and requires the Judicial Department to maintain family violence intervention units in each of its geographical areas.

Domestic violence laws have been amended almost every year since 1986. For example, PA 93-280 established programs for children affected by domestic violence and increased the enrolling fee for participation in the family violence education program. PA 95-193 expanded the maximum length of time a protective order may be effective and prohibited discrimination by insurance companies against family violence crime victims. And PA 96-228 authorized the court to issue a standing criminal restraining order against people convicted of certain family violence crimes.

CONNECTICUT'S FAMILY VIOLENCE LAWS

Family Violence Defined

Connecticut law defines “family violence” as an incident between family or household members that either causes physical injury or creates fear that physical injury is about to occur. Family violence is not a separate criminal offense. Crimes that may be charged as a family violence offense include such crimes as assault, kidnapping, and sexual assault. 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. 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, and people who have a child together whether or not they are or have been married or have lived together (CGS 46b-38a).

Police Approach

The law outlines appropriate action by police responding to family violence crimes. The police must arrest the person or persons suspected of committing the violence and charge them with the appropriate crime. In making their decision whether to arrest, the police may not take into account the relationship of the victim and suspect or whether the victim wants the suspect arrested. The police may not discourage intervention requests by threatening or suggesting the arrest of the victim and suspect. When the police receive complaints from two or more opposing parties, they must evaluate each complaint separately to determine whether to seek arrest warrants for one or both parties. If no cause exists for an arrest, the officer must remain on the scene until the likelihood of imminent violence has been eliminated (CGS 46b-38b).

Additionally, the law requires the police to help victims get medical treatment, inform them of their right to file an affidavit or warrant for arrest, inform them of services available to victims, and refer them to the Commission on Victim Services (CGS 46b-38b).

Reports

The law requires officers who respond to a family violence incident to complete a family violence offense report whether or not an arrest is made. All arrests must be reported to the public safety commissioner on a form prescribed by him that includes the parties' ages, sex, and weapons used; existence of substance abuse; existence of any prior court orders; and an indication of whether children were involved or present. A copy of the report must be sent to the state's attorney in the judicial district where the arrest was made. Anyone who fails to make such report can be fined up to $500. The commissioner must compile statistics on family violence crimes and publish them annually (CGS 46b-38d). The family division must maintain a statistical summary of all family violence cases referred to its units. The report must include the number of cases referred, the nature of the cases, and the charges and dispositions. The report must be submitted to the Department of Public Safety monthly (CGS 46b-38f).

Police Immunity

Police are exempt from civil liability for personal or property injury when a party brings a family violence action for an arrest based on probable cause (CGS 46b-38b(c)).

Family Violence Response and Intervention Units

The Judicial Department, through the Family Relations Division of the Superior Court, has a family violence intervention unit in each geographical area court. The units are coordinated and governed by a formal agreement between the Judicial Department and the chief state's attorney. The law requires the units to:

1. accept family violence referrals from judges or prosecutors,

2. prepare written or oral reports on each case for the court,

3. provide or arrange for victim and offender services,

4. administer contracts to carry out these services, and

5. establish centralized reporting procedures.

Each unit must use information given to it to prepare the report for each case and recommend services. The information is otherwise confidential and retained in each unit's files and cannot be subpoenaed or used in any other way in court proceedings.

The unit's report and recommendations are available to the judge at the first court appearance. The judge may impose conditions to protect the parties, including issuance of a protective order or an order prohibiting further violence against the victim, referral to a family violence education program for batterers, and immediate referral for more extensive case assessment. The Department of Public Safety maintains a 24-hour protective order registry, which allows police to check on the status of existing protective orders.

The court clerk sends a certified copy of the protective order to the victim and within 48 hours to the appropriate law enforcement agency. The order may include whatever is necessary to protect a victim from injury or intimidation, including an order prohibiting assaulting, threatening, molesting, or restraining the victim or entering the family dwelling or the victim's dwelling. The order must be made a condition of bail or release. Criminal violation of a protective order is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both (CGS 53a-110b). Entering or remaining on property in violation of the order constitutes criminal trespass in the first degree, which is also a class A misdemeanor. In addition to these penalties, courts may raise or revoke the offender's bail or release for a violation (CGS 46b-38c).

Restraining Order

Any family or household member who has been subjected to a continuous threat of physical pain or injury by a family or household member may apply to the Superior Court for a restraining order. A restraining order differs from a protective order in that restraining orders are civil and can be issued without the accused person being arrested. Protective orders are criminal and are issued after the accused has been arrested for committing a family violence crime.

To obtain a restraining order the victim must file an application that includes an affidavit with the court stating 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 law allows the court to issue an order without notice or hearing if there is an immediate and present physical danger to the applicant.

As with a protective order, the court may put in the order whatever provisions are necessary to protect a victim from injury or intimidation, including requirements for temporary child custody or visitation rights. But each restraining order, except an exparte order, must state that (1) the court issuing it had jurisdiction to do so; (2) the respondent was given notice and the opportunity to be heard; and (3) it is valid in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, U.S. territories or possessions, and on tribal lands.

The order is effective for six months unless extended by the court 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 criminal trespass in the first degree, punishable by up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both (CGS 46b-15).

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: first and second degree assault; first and second degree assault of a victim age 60 or older; second and third degree assault with a firearm; second degree assault of a victim 60 or older with a firearm; first, second, and third degree sexual assault; first degree aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault in a spousal or cohabiting relationship; third degree sexual assault with a firearm

The court may issue such an order when it believes that the history and character of the offender and the nature and circumstances of the offense indicate that the order will best serve the interest of the victim and the public. It must remain in effect until modified or revoked by the court for good cause. The order may include enjoining the offender from (1) restraining the victim; (2) threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the victim; or (3) 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 that is punishable by one to five years imprisonment, up to a $1,000 fine, or both (CGS 53a-110c).

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).

Pretrial Family Violence Education Program

The law establishes a Pretrial Family Violence Education program for people who are charged with family violence crimes. A defendant can ask the court to place him in the program. If placed in the program, the defendant is released to the custody of a family violence intervention unit for up to two years under such condition as the court orders. If he successfully completes the program, the charges will be dismissed. If he violates the program's conditions, he will be brought to trial. In order to qualify for the program the following conditions must be present.

1. The crime charged must not be more serious than a misdemeanor, or if there is good cause, a class D felony. For example, anyone charged with first-degree assault or risk of injury to a minor would not be eligible.

2. The defendant must not have previously participated in the program.

3. The defendant must not have been convicted of, or accepted accelerated rehabilitation for, a family violence crime committed after October 1, 1986.

The law requires the court to notify the victim of the defendant's request for the program and, if possible, give the victim an opportunity to be heard. The defendant must, if he is able, pay a $200 fee to the court to participate in the program (CGS 46b-38c(g) & (h)).

Domestic Violence Training

Police. Each law enforcement agency has, in conjunction with the Division of Criminal Justice, developed specific operational guidelines for arrest policies in family violence incidents. The guidelines must include procedures for conducting the investigation, procedures for arrest and victim assistance, education on what constitutes speedy information in a family violence incident, procedures for providing services to victims, and any other applicable criteria (CGS 46b-38b(e)).

The Police Officer Standards and Training Council, in conjunction with the Division of Criminal Justice, has set up education and training programs for police and state's attorneys on handling family violence incidents. The training includes (1) criminal law enforcement in family violence cases and the use of community resources; (2) the nature, extent, and causes of family violence; (3) the legal rights of victims and offenders; (4) the services available to victims and batterers; (5) the legal duty of officers to make arrests and offer protection and assistance; and (6) techniques for handling incidents that minimize the likelihood of injury to the officer and promote the victim's safety (CGS 46b-38b(f)).

Judicial Department. The Judicial Department has ongoing family violence training for judges, family division personnel, bail commissioners, and clerks, including information on the function of the family violence intervention units and the use of restraining and protective orders (CGS 46b-38c(I)).

Children

The law requires the chief court administrator, within available appropriations, to set up programs for children affected by domestic violence (CGS 46b-38g).

Insurance

It is unfair insurance competition and an unfair and deceptive insurance practice or act for insurance companies, hospital service corporations, health care centers, or fraternal benefit societies that provide individual, group, or limited benefit health coverage to treat family violence victims differently than other insureds by (1) refusing to insure or continue to insure or (2) limiting the amount, extent, or kind of coverage.

The health care providers affected by the act provide individual or group health insurance coverage for basic hospital, basic medical-surgical, major medical, accidental, hospital or medical service plan contract, or hospital and medical coverage provided by a health care center (CGS 38a-816).

REVISIONS TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAWS

An Act Concerning Standing Criminal Restraining Orders (PA 98-15)

The act adds stalking crimes committed against family or household members to those crimes for which a court may issue a standing criminal restraining order.

An Act Concerning Domestic Violence (PA 97-126)

The act requires domestic violence restraining and protective orders to state that (1) the court issuing the order had jurisdiction to do so; (2) the respondent was given notice and the opportunity to be heard; and (3) it is valid in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, U.S. territories or possessions, and on tribal lands.

It makes it unfair insurance competition and an unfair and deceptive insurance practice or act for insurance companies, hospital service corporations, health care centers, or fraternal benefit societies that provide limited benefit health coverage to treat family violence victims differently than other insureds by (1) refusing to insure or continue to insure or (2) limiting the amount, extent, or kind of coverage.

An Act Concerning Welfare Reform And The Expenditures Of The Department of Social Services (PA 97-2, June 18 Special Session)

The act exempts Temporary Family Assistance applicants and recipients who are victims of family violence from job training, work placement assistance, subsidized and unsubsidized employment, and child support enforcement requirements. It defines a domestic violence victim as someone who has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by (1) physical acts that resulted in, or threatened to result in, physical injury; (2) sexual abuse; (3) sexual activity involving a child in the home; (4) being forced to participate in sexual acts; (5) mental abuse; or (6) neglect or medical care deprivation.

An Act Concerning Computerized Information Sharing…Appropriations For The Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 1997, 1998, 1999…And Expenses of the Connecticut Siting Council (PA 97-11, June 18 Special Session)

The act transfers $150,000 of the Education Department's Education Cost Sharing grant appropriation for FYs 1997-98 and 1998-99 to fund an interdistrict abuse and neglect domestic violence education program for children age five to 12.

An Act Concerning Domestic Violence (PA 96-228)

The act authorizes the court to issue a standing criminal restraining order against people convicted of certain assault and sexual assault crimes when it determines such an order is in the best interest of the victim and the public. The act specifies against whom such an order can be issued, the content of the order, the penalty for violating the order, and procedures for notifying the person who is the subject of the order.

Against Whom the Order Can be Issued. The act allows the court to 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: first and second degree assault of a victim age 60 or older; second and third degree assault with a firearm; second degree assault of a victim 60 or older with a firearm; first degree aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault in a spousal or cohabiting relationship; and first, second, and third degree sexual assault.

The court may issue such an order when it believes that the history and character of the offender and the nature and circumstances of the offense indicate that the order will best serve the interest of the victim and the public. It must remain in effect until modified or revoked by the court for good cause.

Content of the Order. The order may include enjoining the offender from (1) restraining the victim; (2) threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the victim; or (3) entering the victim's home. The act 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.

Penalty for Violation. Violation of a standing criminal restraining order by the person against whom the order is issued is a class D felony which is punishable by imprisonment for one to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Notification. 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.

An Act Concerning the Reporting, Investigation, and Prosecution of Child Abuse and the Termination of Parental Rights (PA 96-246)

This act authorizes the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to consider the effect of family violence in any child abuse investigation and help family members obtain protection. It establishes an 18-member coordinating council to increase family violence awareness and help reduce its incidence. Council members consist of the attorney general; DCF, public health, and public safety commissioners; chief state's attorney; chief court administrator; executive directors of the Connecticut Police Chief's Association and the Council on Domestic Violence; Judiciary Committee chairmen and ranking members; and six public members.

All but the public members can designate someone in their place. The six top legislative leaders appoint the six public members.

The council is responsible for:

1. identifying and evaluating family violence services,

2. promoting new laws and services,

3. studying court and law enforcement procedures,

4. reviewing criminal justice data collection and analysis,

5. ensuring coordination among agencies and other entities,

6. promoting multi-disciplinary training,

7. promoting effective prevention and treatment techniques,

8. recommending treatment programs and standards to agencies and service providers,

9. promoting and supporting local family violence councils, and

10. increasing public awareness.

The act specifies that these provisions are not intended to (1) interfere with the authority or responsibility of existing agencies or (2) limit the state's authority to seek relief under the law.

An Act Concerning Domestic Violence (PA 95-193)

This act expands from 90 days to six months, the maximum period within which a protective order may be effective without a court-ordered extension.

It also makes it unfair insurance competition and an unfair and deceptive insurance practice or act for certain insurance companies, hospital service corporations, health care centers, or fraternal benefit societies to treat family violence victims differently than other insureds by (1) refusing to insure or continue to insure or (2) limiting the amount, extent, or kind of coverage.

The health care providers affected by the act provide individual or group health insurance coverage for basic hospital, basic medical-surgical, major medical, accidental, hospital or medical service plan contract, or hospital and medical coverage provided by a health care center.

An Act Concerning Domestic Violence (PA 93-280)

This act requires the chief court administrator to establish programs, within available appropriations, for children who are affected by domestic violence and appropriates $112,500 and $150,000 for this purpose during fiscal years 1993-94 and 1994-95, respectively. It increases from $100 to $200, the fee for enrolling in the family violence education program, which was established in 1986 for people who are charged with family violence crimes. The court may waive the fee if it finds the defendant is unable to pay. The charges are dismissed if a person successfully completes the program.

An Act Concerning the Creation of a Protective Order Registry for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (PA 93-343)

This act requires the Public Safety Department, in cooperation with the chief court administrator, to establish a 24-hour protective order registry in the Connecticut On-Line Law Enforcement Communications Teleprocessing (COLLECT) system. The COLLECT system is a computerized data base maintained by the Department of Public Safety. Police have access to this system 24 hours a day and use it to check on such things as outstanding arrest warrants. The state apparently has the computer capability to connect the Judicial Department's police in the field to check on the status of existing protective orders.

An Act Concerning Family Violence (PA 91-381)

The act creates a new crime for anyone who violates the terms or conditions of a protective order issued against him and make violation a class A misdemeanor. It requires anyone accused of violating a protective order to be promptly brought before the court in the geographical area where the order was issued. And it requires protective orders to contain a notice that violation is a crime.

The act specifies the terms and conditions courts must include in protective orders and expressly allows judges to include any provisions necessary to protect a victim from threats, harassment, injury, or intimidation, including prohibiting harassment, assaulting, or restraining the victim or entering the family dwelling.

The act requires judges to make obeying the protective order a condition of bail or release. Lastly, it makes trespassing in violation of a protective order first-degree trespass.

An Act Concerning The Judicial Department (PA 91-24)

The act allows the court clerk to designate someone who is authorized to administer oaths to take sworn statements outside of open court from applicants for the Pretrial Family Violence Education Program.

An Act Concerning Court Imposed Fees In Certain Cases (PA 89-219)

This act increased the fee, from $50 to $100, for anyone participating in the Pretrial Family Violence Education Program.

An Act Concerning Domestic Violence (PA 87-567)

The act redefines “family violence crime” to exclude (1) nonabusive parental discipline and (2) verbal abuse or arguments that do not create a present danger and likelihood of physical violence.

The act also:

1. makes confidential information provided to a family relations officer in a local family violence intervention unit;

2. reduces, from $200 to $50, the cost of participating in the Pretrial Family Violence Education Program;

3. transfers from the Judicial Department to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund money for victim counselors within family violence intervention units;

4. makes ineligible for accelerated rehabilitation anyone charged with a family violence crime who is eligible for the Pretrial Family Violence Education Program; and

5. makes ineligible for accelerated rehabilitation anyone who has previously participated in the Pretrial Family Violence Education Program.

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