During civil protection order hearings, petitioners’ safety concerns come up regularly . Of the many concerns, one that stood out to me is when a petitioner asks “What do I do when they find out?”
A Civil Protection Order, while often life-saving, is a piece of paper. It allows the law to take action if it is violated, and is in essence reactionary, but also discourages further abuse for fear of punishment. In situations when the CPO is issued in a default hearing – meaning the respondent was served with notice to appear in court, but did not appear in court and the CPO was granted anyway, the granted, default CPO must still be served on the respondent before it is considered enforceable. The time right after a respondent is served with the CPO can be a very critical, and sometimes dangerous, period for a petitioner; justifiably, they may be worried about how this order can shield them.
In response to this predicament, that the state of New York has come up with part of a solution. In keeping with the times, many of New York’s counties have implemented the Statewide Automated Victim Information Notification Network, accessible through the NY-Alert system. It allows the petitioner to sign up for notices so that they are apprised immediately when the respondent is served with the CPO. In its pilot stage the creators of the system hope to expand it to NYC within the next year. Immediate knowledge of the CPO’s “enforceability” could help survivors better plan for safety; the system allows users to be electronically updated through mobile and email alerts. This could be potentially useful for petitioners who feared that upon being served, respondents would become angry and likely to commit another act of domestic violence.
Is this a system that could work for DC? Let us know what you think!
Pooja Datta, Court Watch Project Intern