Domestic Violence On the Rise With Coronavirus Stay at Home Orders
As attorneys who represent men, women and children who are the victims of domestic violence, we know that this problem cuts across all social and financial boundaries and affects people in all parts of our society. It is an issue that all abusers try to keep hidden, and sadly, many abusers succeed in concealing their behavior. With the imposition of shelter in place orders and stay at home restrictions because of the coronavirus, however, the issue of domestic abuse has come to the forefront and is forcing attorneys, judges, and the legal system to take aggressive action to protect the victims of these terrible offenses.
How the Courts and Law Enforcement Are Dealing With Domestic Violence During the Corona Virus
You may have read that law enforcement has begun making less arrests and that some defendants are being let out of jail because of fears relating to the coronavirus. You may have also heard that courts have reduced the number of hearings they are having because of this crisis as well. While those statements are true, thankfully, they are NOT true as it relates to incidents of domestic violence. Arrests for domestic violence have actually increased, and the courts are setting aside special blocks of time to hear restraining orders and other cases involving domestic violence. I can say from the recent experiences of our attorneys in court that Judges are NOT looking kindly on acts of domestic violence occurring during shelter in place orders and other stay at home restriction.
Courts Have Broad Authority to Grant Relief to Victims of Domestic Violence
If you are the victim of domestic violence, you should call the police immediately. If necessary, you should seek a safe place to stay on a very temporary basis (like the home of a friend or family member), and you should take the children with you. Immediately after that, you should go to the courthouse in the county where you live that handles restraining orders, and you should file for an order of protection (also known as a restraining order). In most jurisdictions, the court will review your petition immediately, and if it finds probable cause, will issue a temporary order of protection that will most often order that your abuser have no contact with you and that he or she vacate your home (this is done by having law enforcement serve the order on your abuser). The court will then set a hearing to decide whether a more extensive order should be issued (usually around 10 days later). It is possible to represent yourself at this hearing, but if you can afford it, it is highly advantageous to hire legal counsel, as there is also other relief that may be granted, like temporary financial support and orders restricting visitation with the kids, that can be tricky to argue for without a lawyer. Lawyers will often charge a flat fee for representing clients in these types of cases, and they will sometimes adjust their fees based on the circumstances of the case, which makes representation more affordable.
Remember That Your Testimony Alone Can Be Enough For A Restraining Order
Almost anything that supports your allegations of abuse can be introduced as evidence in court. This includes texts, video, pictures, your testimony and the testimony of any other witnesses. If presented correctly by legal counsel, even prior acts of abuse can sometimes be presented to the court. Sometimes, however, there will be no objective evidence of abuse. There may be no visible injuries and there be no other witnesses to what occurred. One lie that abusers tell their victims is that the court will never believe them. That it’s just a “he said, she said,” situation and the court will not do anything. That is simply untrue. One of the judge’s most important roles is to weight the credibility of the people testifying in court, and often, it is one person’s testimony against the other’s and nothing more. While this is not an ideal situation, there have been MANY restraining orders granted under just those circumstances.
Domestic violence can be a scary situation, and it can often feel like you have nowhere to turn. But in today’s society, not only are victims fighting back, but law enforcement and the courts are also taking notice and properly addressing these cases. If you’re in need of a domestic violence attorney, New Mexico Legal Group can handle your entire case remotely. Submit a free case evaluation online or call us to learn how.