In Colorado, all protective orders have language restraining a defendant from harassing, molesting, intimidating, retaliating against or tampering with any witness or victim of the acts charged. So then, under this general PO, the defendant could talk with his or her spouse even if that person was in the complaint as a victim. It is important to realize that, even if contact is allowed, the protected person will be able to go to the police when he or she feels the accused has crossed that boundary and new charges may be filed.
Many Possible Extras
There are many other conditions that a judge might put in a restraining order in Colorado. The Judge can order a defendant not to contact someone (e.g. the named victim, children, and witnesses) or not to go to a specific location. The judge can order a person not to drink or do drugs without a doctor's proscription. The judge can order a defendant not to drive without a valid driver's license. The court can order a defendant not to possess a gun or other dangerous weapon. In fact, the law is written so broadly that the court can enter against the accused "any other order the court deems appropriate to protect the safety of the alleged victim."
Know What is in the Protection Order
Because conditions of a PO vary, it is vital that the parties read the PO. Once a judge has advised the accused of the contents of the order, he will have a difficult time arguing they didn't know the contents of the order. That said, in reality, often people are in a state of confusion when the PO is read to them, so when he or she gets the order, it should be carefully read to see exactly what restraints are in place. It is also important for the protected person to keep a copy of the protective order with them to show to an officer should they need to.
Victim's Rights Will Be Honored
Almost always a judge will make adherence to the PO a condition of bond in Colorado. Because DV crimes are victims rights crimes, in Colorado, victims must have notice that bond conditions may be changed and the right to be present at any hearing where bond conditions may be changed. They also have the right to be heard at that court proceeding to ask for or object to any condition of bond.
Understand a Protection Order is the Will of the Judge, Not the Named Victim
A PO is an order from the court in Colorado. Whether it stays in place or not is exclusively the choice of the court. Sometimes, a protected person doesn't want to keep a PO in place; it is important that the defendant not violate a PO in any way, even if the protected person says that it's okay. It's not okay. Unless a judge modifies the PO, the defendant could be charged with violation of a restraining order, even by engaging in consensual behavior prohibited by the PO. If the named victim would like to vacate some protection in the PO, they should contact the judge in the case and request that provision be dropped.
The Protection Order Restrains the Accused, Not the Named Victim
A PO only restrains the defendant from certain action; it does nothing restrain the protected person. This can be a problem practically. For example, if the protected person tries to contact the defendant, although this may be unwise, it is not illegal. Nothing in the PO will restrain the protected person from calling, texting, emailing or any other form of communication. But if the defendant responds to that contact, if there is a no contact order, he or she may be charged with the misdemeanor of Violation of a Restraining Order. If it was a condition of the Defendant's bond, he or she may be charged with the felony of Violation of Bail Bonds. The defendant, if they are restrained from contact must not reply. Do not return phone calls, answer texts or emails. If the defendant picks-up the phone and the protected person is on the other line, they should hang up immediately. If the protected person tries to contact the defendant, the defendant should tell his or her attorney.
What Can't Be Done One Way, Can't Be Done Another Either...
If the defendant is restrained from something in a PO, they cannot use a third person, ask a friend or a family member, to do something that they could not otherwise do themselves. If a Defendant is restrained from contacting his wife and he sends his daughter a birthday card addressed to his daughter, he may be okay. If he writes in his daughter's birthday card, "Tell Mommy, I hope she's well," he has probably opened himself up to criminal prosecution. If something needs to be done that the PO forbids, like go to a family home to pick up essentials where the defendant is restrained from the home, the defendant must approach the court for permission.
Obey the Most Restrictive Conflicting Order
There may be conflicting orders in several cases. In Colorado, it is important to honor the most restrictive PO. For example one PO may be a standard PO, not restricting behavior in any way except that the Defendant cannot act maliciously toward a victim or witness, and a second RO restricts the defendant from going to a particular house. If the defendant then goes to that house, he or she will have violated the second (though not the first) PO and expose him or herself to criminal prosecution. Another example of conflicting court orders which is common in DV cases is where the defendant and the named victim share children and the defendant has a court order for child visitation, but the new criminal PO retrains the defendant from any contact with his or her children. It is important that the defendant honor the most restrictive court order (the PO) until it can be modified. If there are conflicting orders, it is important to bring these to the attention of the court.
This Could Take A While...
In Colorado, POs are legal creatures with long lives. They can exist long after their usefulness has expired. Unless a judge lifts a PO, it exists until "final disposition of the action." This means that from the moment a defendant is informed of the PO order, he or she is restrained until the case is dismissed, he or she is acquitted at trial, or he or she completes a sentence. Some folks think when a defendant is sentenced, the PO is automatically vacated; this is wrong. Keep in mind, this could be years, because the PO will only expire at the end of probation or incarceration, whichever is last. So for example if a woman was charged with 3rd Degree assault, restrained from any contact with her ex-husband at the initial hearing and received a sentence to 2 years probation with 14 days jail as a condition of that probation, unless the Order was lifted, she would not be legally able to contact her ex-husband until her probation terminated two years from the date of sentencing.
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