Deciding to use the police or courts
In 1994, New York State passed the Family Protection and Domestic Violence Intervention Act, which requires the police department to respond to domestic violence as the serious crime that it is. But, as with every decision about your safety, you are the best judge of whether involving the police is the best thing to do in your situation.
Deciding whether to involve the police or to get protection from the courts can be difficult. An advocate can help you understand the police, courts, and other systems in your community. Feel free to contact your domestic violence program and talk to an advocate about any concerns or questions you may have
What to expect if you call the police - If you call the police in an emergency, they must come to investigate. For the police to make an arrest, they must have enough evidence to believe someone committed a crime by harming or threatening you. This is called "probable cause."
When the police arrive, tell them:
- what happened, in your own words
- where the abuser is, if you know
- if weapons were involved and if so, where they are
- if you have children and where they are
- if you have any injuries
- if any personal property such as phones, furniture, walls, windows were damaged
- if any pets were harmed
Every time the police respond to a domestic violence call, they are required to fill out and give you a copy of a Domestic Incident Report (DIR), even if an arrest is not made.
The DIR should include the following information:
- A Victims Rights Notice, which explains your legal rights and includes information on how to find local domestic violence services
- The officers' names and badge numbers, so that you can contact them again if you have questions or need to add information to the police report
- An explanation if they are not making an arrest
The Domestic Incident Report (DIR) is not the same as a police statement.
What is an Order of Protection?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may access the courts to receive an Order of Protection.
An Order of Protection is a document issued by a court, signed by a judge that prohibits the abuser from abusing you verbally, physically, sexually or through threats of violence. An Order of Protection may also order the abuser to stay away from you, your children, your home and your workplace. It may also order no contact via the phone, computer, or mail. Once an order of protection is issued, only a judge can change it. If the order includes a stay away provision and your partner comes to your house, he/she is violating the order and should be arrested. You may feel there is a good reason for your partner to be at the house, however if you want changes to an order, you must request them from the court.
How do I get an Order of Protection? To get an order of protection, your case must come before a judge. Two types of courts are available to provide protection to victims of domestic violence - civil and criminal.
Types of Courts
Family Court: This is a civil court with the goal of protecting you and your family. If you are involved in an intimate relationship; including married, same sex, or dating relationship, or share the same household as the abusive person, or have a child in common with the abuser you may access this court to obtain an Order of Protection. Use this court to receive an emergency, temporary Order of Protection.
Criminal Court: Regardless of the relationship between you and the abuser, a criminal court can issue an order of protection after the abuser has been charged with a crime. The police or District Attorney may request an order of protection from the court or you may make the request yourself.
Supreme Court: This is also a civil court. If you are getting a divorce, separation, or annulment, you can request an order of protection through your attorney at any time before the trial or settlement is final.
- Get paperwork from the clerk's office in your county's family court or through your local Domestic Violence program
- Bring ID
- Fill out petition; including all abusive actions the abuser has made against you, the reason you need to be protected, and what you are asking the judge to do in order to keep you safe
- Go before the judge
- Note: there are no age restrictions or fees for receiving an Order of Protection
- Call the police and file a criminal complaint
- Tell the police you want to seek an Order of Protection
- The police will contact the District Attorney's Office
- The District Attorney will decide to bring a case against the abuser and submit for an Order of Protection on your behalf. Police agencies can also request an emergency order from the presiding judge.
- Discuss with your attorney
- Have your attorney submit as part of your divorce
For more information, contact Liberty Resources' Help Restore Hope Program @218 Liberty Street Oneida, NY 13421 (315) 363-0048 or call the 24 hour Hotline at 1-855-9NOWSAFE/1-855-966-9723.