Interviewer: What are no-contact orders or a protection order or a restraining order? How do they work?
Paul Tafelski: A judge will just order you the conditional bond to have to contact with the complaining witness or any other witnesses. It’s really fairly difficult for the prosecutor or the court to enforce that, but if they do find out about a violation they will often revoke the bond or give the person some time in jail. There are significant consequences, but basically it’s just a court order. They tell you that you cannot have contact in any way, which means by phone, by e-mail, by text, or through a third party. In any way, shape, or form, you’re not allowed to contact or speak to that person.
The main theory behind it is to prevent you from tampering with a witness or talking them into trying not to show up to court or drop the charges and all that, but it’s become a pretty commonplace condition ordered by most of the courts now. You can still occasionally talk a judge into just ordering no negative contact, which allows you to still at least live in the marital home. That’s an important thing.
Interviewer: Will a protection order automatically be placed on the individual?
Paul Tafelski: It’s not required that it be automatic, but generally speaking it happens most of the time.
Interviewer: If someone’s a gun owner; will their guns be automatically taken away?
Paul Tafelski: No, but that’s up to the cops at the time of the arrest. They don’t come back to your house later, trying to collect your guns and stuff, but if they have reason to be fearful of you or other persons trying to make it seem like you’re dangerous and they find out you have all these weapons, then that is something that they could restrict as a bond condition. Typically, if they’re going to take any guns, they take them right when they come to the incident. In most cases, that’s not really an issue, but it’s a possibility.
Interviewer: What happens if the alleged victim tries to contact the accused via phone call or text or what have you? Should that person contact them back?
Paul Tafelski: The complaining witness is another word for victim. I mean, technically someone is only a victim after the case has been proven, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going to call them the victim. If the defendant contacts the victim, it’s up to the victim what they do. They’re not the ones at risk of getting in trouble. The defendant is the only one who’s at risk of getting in trouble by the court because the court only has jurisdiction over them and so when the court orders no contact, it’s only they that are at risk for violating that no-contact order. They’re the ones who have to make all the decisions and do all the worrying because in a domestic violence case the victim doesn’t get punished by the court. Only the defendant does.
Interviewer: In your experience, have you seen this occur? Have you seen where this ends up getting someone in trouble?
Paul Tafelski: Oh, yeah. Some judges order it and don’t think that much about it. Other judges are very, very serious about it. If they even see people like mumbling to each other in the courtroom, they will consider revoking the bond and putting the person in jail for a few days to think about what they did. Yeah, it’s very important, if you do get charged with domestic violence, that you have a lawyer that’s familiar with that court where you’re at and knows the tendencies of your judge and knows what things really matter and what things maybe don’t matter as much. These domestic violence cases are nothing to sneeze at and the court’s orders are nothing to ignore either, because at any time you’re vulnerable to be put into jail if you disobey those orders.