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Current Issues

National Registry

The National Stalker and Domestic Violence Reduction Act authorizes the inclusion of civil restraining and abuse prevention orders in all National Crime Information Center databases.36 However, only 19 states have begun to enter their protective orders since the Federal Bureau of Investigation began accepting orders for the national registry in May 1997. In fall 1998, the national registry contained only 97,136 entries, which is estimated to be less than 5 percent of the 2 million orders believed to qualify for entry. Until a complete national registry is available, states’ ability to give full faith and credit to each other’s protective orders is compromised. Thus, to date, the goal of establishing a separate, comprehensive national protective order registry remains unrealized.

Massachusetts’s experience in developing its Registry of Civil Restraining Orders indicates that keys to the success of any such registry system include 1) a high level of commitment by all parties involved in developing the system; 2) the existence of a central collection point for the protective order data; 3) reliable data collection methods and well-trained staff; 4) the capability to provide technical support, audit data quality, and monitor local court performance; 5) the ability to develop and support computer programs; and 6) online access to data by police and other law enforcement agencies.37

Consolidation of Procedures

In many states, several types of restraining orders (both criminal and civil) are available to victims seeking protection. Often, different procedures and remedies apply to different types of orders, making application for and enforcement of the appropriate order difficult and confusing.

Colorado has incorporated two policies into its statutes that significantly streamline the protective order process and should improve enforcement. The first is the automatic imposition of a no-contact order in criminal and juvenile cases. Such no-contact orders are imposed at arraignment or first court appearance and remain in effect until final case disposition. The order restrains the offender “from harassing, molesting, intimidating, retaliating against or tampering with any witness to or victim of the acts.”38 In juvenile cases, the offender’s parents or legal guardian is also restrained under the order. The victim is relieved of having to apply for a protective order, and law enforcement response to complaints by victims who are contacted by offenders becomes standardized. In addition, when a victim can demonstrate—through caller ID or other credible evidence—that an incarcerated defendant called in violation of a no-contact restraining order, the defendant may lose all phone privileges except for calls to his or her attorney.39

Colorado has consolidated its civil protection order process by combining the procedures for obtaining domestic violence, elder abuse, and stalking protective orders and using standardized petition and order forms.40 By adopting a uniform format, Colorado has simplified the process and attempted to improve the enforcement rates of all protective orders. The Colorado General Assembly reasoned that

The statutes provide for the issuance of several types of civil restraining orders to protect the public, but that many of these restraining orders have many elements in common. The general assembly also [found] that consolidating the various forms for issuing civil restraining orders and creating, to the extent possible, a standardized set of forms that will be applicable to the issuance of civil restraining orders will simplify the procedures for issuing these restraining orders and enhance the efficient use of the courts’ and citizens’ time and resources.41

Louisiana and Kentucky have also developed standardized forms. Louisiana’s form, referred to as a “uniform abuse prevention order,” “encompasses peace bonds, temporary restraining orders, protective orders, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and court-approved consent agreements . . . as long as such order is issued for the purpose of preventing violent or threatening acts or harassment against, contact or communication with, or physical proximity to, another person.”42 In Kentucky, any order that requires entry into the state’s Law Information Network, including orders of another jurisdiction entitled to full faith and credit, must be entered on a specified form.43

Protective Order Renewal Requirements

Most states limit the time that a protective order may remain in effect to a relatively short period, usually 1 to 3 years. Although extensions to protective orders may be obtained, the extension process often requires a victim to face the offender in court, and possibly come out of hiding, to continue to receive court-ordered protection.

A few states have authorized the issuance of permanent protective orders. In New Jersey, a conviction for stalking operates as an application for a permanent restraining order.44 “The permanent restraining order entered by the court subsequent to a conviction for stalking . . . may be dissolved upon the application of the stalking victim to the court which granted the order.”45 Connecticut judges can issue a standing criminal restraining order in domestic violence cases when they believe that such an order will best serve the interests of the victim and the public. These standing orders remain in effect until they are modified or revoked by the court.46

Other states have extended the time during which a protective order is effective. A no-contact order issued against a stalker convicted in California remains in effect for 10 years.47 Iowa law authorizes a 5-year protective order and allows a 5-year extension.48

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Enforcement of Protective Orders, Legal Series Bulletin #4
January 2002
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