How and when should an alleged victim ask to remove a No Contact Order entered as part of a criminal case? A Criminal Defense Lawyer | Attorney’s Perspective.
As criminal defense lawyers | attorneys, we have seen or represented victims interested in lifting no contact orders and the results have been all over the map, depending on the judge, the facts, the preparation and the timing of such requests. We have consistently found that with proper preparation, understanding, and realistic expectations, the chances of getting a No Contact Order Lifted, Rescinded or Modified increase dramatically. However, our office does not give simple answers or build expectations to sell our services. Having championed many of these situations, we know these are difficult motions that require the right facts, patience and work to prevail.
First, it is important for alleged victims to know that the criminal defense lawyers | attorneys in our office cannot represent alleged victims or give them legal advice if we are representing the person who allegedly assaulted them. It is a clear conflict of interests. That being said, there is nothing that prevents an alleged or real victim from hiring independent counsel and filing a Protected Person’s Motion to Modify/Rescind Domestic Violence No Contact Order. We highly recommend an alleged victim speak with experienced counsel about this motion as there are a number of factors that must be considered before filing such a motion if you expect the court to set a hearing, let alone grant such a motion.
What are these Motions?
King County Superior Court forms for such motions can be found under the heading of Domestic Violence No Contact Order Forms and are self-explanatory if you have ever had any exposure to legal proceedings. A similar process is followed in every Superior Court, District Court and Municipal Court in Washington, though the forms and procedures vary a bit. In short, these motions are requests to the judge who imposed the order to lift it.
What makes them difficult?
Judges enter No Contact Orders to protect victims and witness(es) from further violence and/or contact that will affect their testimony and/or sometimes as a condition of a defendant’s criminal sentence because a judge does not want more problems. Although courts generally respect a victim’s opinion or wishes, judges are not beholden to them, especially if a criminal case involves a “true” domestic violence relationship. In a “true” domestic violence relationship, “victims” are controlled by the defendants and are unable to act in their best interest so judges feel comfortable disregarding their wishes as a victim as they think that this will only pull them back into the cycle of violence they are living in. Obviously different judges and facts justify different conclusions; but, in general, this is the logic our criminal defense lawyers | attorneys who sit in these hearings frequently see the most.
In order to increase the chances of getting a No Contact Order lifted, there are certain generalities that affect these motions that should be considered and addressed. This list is not exhaustive or limited and should be reviewed with counsel with your facts.
- Courts want to know that victims can and will protect themselves by calling the police if there is a problem.
- Courts want to know that victims have a safety plan if another problem erupts. The victim may be asked to provide a copy to the court or better yet, should voluntarily provide a copy.
- Courts want to know that victims can act independently and in their own interest.
- If associated police reports include multiple acts of unreported domestic violence, victims will have a harder time getting a No Contact Order lifted as they have demonstrated a pattern of failure to report and an inability to act in their best interest.
- Waiting till defendant enters and shows progress in any recommended treatment is helpful, or using the lack of recommended treatment is helpful as well.
- If a defendant is ordered to attend Domestic Violence Batterers’ Treatment, victims should wait for the first stage (about 90 days) of this program to finish before asking to have the No-Contact Order lifted or modified. Courts want to see progress in this program before taking action.
- Family hardship is generally NOT a basis for courts to remove a No Contact Order; and, in our experience, making these kinds of arguments tends to sway judges in the wrong direction as they believe that in such circumstances, “Victims” will not report further violence or act independently in their own interest. Carefully review and weigh this kind of argument with your criminal defense lawyer | attorney.
This list is not exhaustive or case specific; however, it does give an idea of the kinds of factors courts take into consideration when hearing a Motion to Modify or Rescind a No Contact Order.
Our firm has a strategic combination of courtroom experience, knowledge, skills and temperament. Our criminal defense lawyers | attorneys work as a unit and are highly experienced in dealing with no contact orders as part of larger criminal cases. Our clients retain us to make sure their rights are protected. Consultations are free but a poor choice in counsel is not. The first step in evaluating counsel is an appointment.