Friday, July 24, 2009

On-Line Protective Orders? Sounds Like a Very Bad Idea

The Indianapolis Star on-line has a story about a pilot project where people can request protective orders on-line. According to the Star:

A pilot program in eight Indiana counties lets domestic violence victims fill out forms online to request protective orders.

The Indiana Supreme Court says the program debuted this month in Marion County plus Allen, Elkhart, Grant, Madison, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Wabash counties. It's an expansion of the state's electronic protective order registry, which makes new orders available to police statewide within minutes.

The registry is used in all counties but Jefferson County, where the courthouse was heavily damaged by a recent fire.

Once the online forms are completed with the help of a domestic violence advocate, they can be printed and taken to the county clerk for filing.

The improvements were financed by a $135,000 grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

This just sounds like a bad idea. You make filing of protective orders too easy and people start abusing the process.

People may not remember the early days of the protective order statute. You could file them against anyone. A person wanting to file one in Marion County could go into any small claims court, get a form with the allegations pre-printed on them. The person would sign his or her name, not even under oath, and the clerk would stamp the judge's name on it. That put the temporary order into place pending a hearing on making it permanent.

In the years that followed the process was modified to strike a better balance between the need for these orders and the ability of people to launch accusations against people that often turned out to be false. This program sounds like it might be a retreat from that balance.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Paul. I have a neighbor whom I abhor. I'm adding him to the list right now. ;)

Just kidding, of course, but your point is solid. It's always been my belief that any protective order should be temporary, pending an investigation. The costs would be covered by strict fines against those who file frivolously.

Paul K. Ogden said...

The trouble is even the temporary one I cited above can tarnish someone's reputation. There were a couple elected officials who had them filed against them during the early days of the protective order. They ended up on the front page of the Star.

jabberdoodle said...

Something needs to be done, though. Women, especially, who need help getting out of an abusive relationship, need as low a hurdle to jump as possible. In addition, these orders need to be enforced far far better than they are. Sometimes you wonder if they do any good at all. But, we have to keep trying to make the system work for those who so desperately need the assist.

Claudia Beck Treacy said...

These orders should be granted by a judge who has had the opportunity to personally meet with the one asking for the order.

I hope we have at least one wise judge in Marion County. My daughter absolutely needed a protective order once and her life was saved. On the other hand, women can be vindictive, and often think a protective order might make an excellent club. Beat 'em up by proxy.

There is a man in CCA now, who has been there for several months. (I am positive CCA would love the Internet protective order business.) The woman who filed the order has two husbands. The person initiating the order also must follow the dictates of the order and not make contact. In this case the woman writes to the man in CCA and even puts money on his books. He has a regular girl, so I know he wants the multi-husband woman like he wants to stay in CCA. This guy is scared to death.

As it is, protective orders are not sufficiently screened before granting, so on-line abuse of the system will be likely.

What else will the Internet be used for? Cops do not like to get a search warrant. I would bet an on-line warrant application would make life easier for the cops. I am positive a "cyberspace judge" would not object to 24 hr duty.

Paul K. Ogden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul K. Ogden said...

I totally agree with Claudia. A judge needs to, in person, screen these things before one is granted ex parte. I don't really think that is too much to ask.

I remember a judge tell me once that the first time she had a case of domestic abuse she threw the book at the abuser. Then the next court appearance they were holding hands.

The judge, who now has several years on the bench, told me the biggest problems is not the lack of resources to protect the abused spouse, but that the abused spouse is constantly placing themselves back in the abusive relationship. While that may be because of the psychological conditioning the person gets from being in the abusive relationship, it still is difficult to help people when they're not helping themselves. Everyone always wants to blame the "system." Sometimes it is the people and not the system that is at fault.