Violations of a No Contact Order are prohibited by Rhode Island General Law 12-29-4 as part of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. Section (a)(3) of this law criminalizes willful violations of No Contact Orders and subjects the violator to criminal arrest. Violations of such orders are treated the same as a domestic assault and battery charge and taken very seriously.
No Contact Orders are automatically issued at the beginning of every domestic violence case. This includes domestic assault and battery, domestic disorderly conduct, domestic vandalism, domestic stalking, and domestic sexual assault.
If you, as a criminal defendant, are caught making contact (or attempting to make contact) with the complaining witness after a No Contact Order has been issued, you will be arrested. You will then be charged with the crime of Violation of a No Contact Order. Your bail may be revoked on the original domestic violence charge. If your bail is initially revoked, you may spend at least two weeks in jail pursuant to Rule 46G of the Rhode Island Rules of Criminal Procedure before getting a violation hearing.
No Contact Order violation charges should not be taken lightly. If you violate a No Contact Order in Rhode Island, you face up to 1 year in prison for a first offense. For a third (or greater) offense, you can be charged with a felony, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year in prison.
If you are under investigation or have been charged with Violating a No Contact Order, do not try to give an explanation to the police without a lawyer present. Anything you say will likely be held against you at a future court date. Therefore, is critical that you contact a skilled Rhode Island No Contact Order Defense Attorney like David Ellison to advocate on your behalf. Call David today at (401) 230-5520 and let him prepare a proper defense strategy for you.
NO CONTACT ORDERS VS. PROTECTIVE ORDERS
No Contact Orders are issued in two instances pursuant to The Domestic Violence Prevention Act: (1) when a person is arrested and charged with a domestic violence offense, a No Contact Order is issued by a Justice of the Peace or Judge while the case is pending; and (2) after a defendant has been convicted of a domestic violence offense either after a trial or the entry of a guilty or nolo contendere plea.
Protective Orders (i.e., Restraining Orders) are different in that they are issued by a Family Court after a petition by the protected party.
For purposes of criminal law, the orders have the same effect; both are meant to protect one party from contact or harassment by the other, and willful violations of either order can result in criminal prosecution. Additionally, as provided for under The Domestic Violence Protection Act, a violation of a No Contact Order or Protective Order is a domestic violence offense even though there may be no physical contact or “violence” involved.
MISDEMEANOR VS. FELONY CONVICTION
If you have one or fewer previous domestic violence convictions, a Violation of a No Contact Order is charged as a misdemeanor. However, if you have two or more prior convictions for domestic violence, a violation of the Order is charged as a felony. Prior convictions can include a previous Violation of a No Contact Order, or any crime of domestic violence listed in Rhode Island General Law 12-29-2 (e.g., simple assault, trespass, vandalism, stalking, cyberstalking, etc.)
REMOVAL OR MODIFICATION OF NO CONTACT ORDERS
A removal or modification of a No Contact Order is issued at the judge's discretion. Often, there is a misconception that a protected party can “drop” a No Contact Order. If a protected party wants a No Contact Order vacated or modified, he or she must first file a motion with the Court. The judge will then hear the facts and circumstances prompting the party's request and will rule accordingly.
PENALTIES FOR A VIOLATION OF A NO CONTACT ORDER CHARGE IN RHODE ISLAND
The consequences of a conviction for Violating a No Contact Order vary depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. Under Rhode Island Law 12-29-5, a first offense for a violation is punishable as a misdemeanor and carries up to on year in jail. Additionally, violating a Domestic No Contact Order carries with it the Domestic Violence Prevention Act Penalties including mandatory attendance at a batterer's intervention class for 12 weeks. Moreover, a new No Contact Order will be issued, and the defendant will also have to forfeit any firearms he or she owns.
If the defendant has a previous domestic violence conviction, the violation is charged as a second domestic offense, which carries the same penalties, but also requires the defendant to serve a mandatory minimum ten days in jail. A violation of a No Contact Order for someone with two or more previous domestic violence convictions is considered a felony and carries a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison with a maximum penalty of 10 years.
It is possible to have a felony Violation of a No Contact Order be reduced to a misdemeanor if the State and/or the Court can be persuaded that a defendant's conduct in a particular case does not warrant such a substantial punishment. That said, the Court and the State take domestic violence offenses very seriously. Having a skilled and knowledgeable attorney by your side can make all the difference. If you or someone you know is charged with Violating a No Contact Order or Protective Order, call David Ellison today at (401) 230-5520.
IF THE PROTECTED PARTY ATTEMPTS TO CONTACT YOU
Unless there is an order in place protecting you, the protected party is not legally prohibited from attempting to contact you. That said, a criminal violation occurs if you respond by having contact with the protected party (even if they reached out to you first).
EXAMPLES OF VIOLATING A NO CONTACT ORDER OR PROTECTIVE ORDER
A person against whom a No Contact Order or Protective Order is issued is prohibited from reaching out to the protected party in any way. Examples of prohibitions include physical contact (i.e., being in the same residence together, being in a car together, going out together, showing up at their work, etc.) as well as contact via telephone, text, or online sources. Third party contact is also considered a violation. This occurs when contact is made or attempted through someone else (i.e., having a friend or family member make contact with the protected party on your behalf).
DEFENSES FOR VIOLATING A NO CONTACT ORDER OR PROTECTIVE ORDER
While there are countless examples of violations of No Contact or Protective Orders, the contact itself must be willful. Therefore, if contact with the protected party is incidental, there may not be a violation.
Like most areas of the law, every case is unique and requires a different defense strategy. In many cases, there are valid defenses or circumstances to mitigate a charge of Violating a No Contact or Protective Order. For example, the Order may have previously been modified or vacated or has expired. In cases of indirect contact (text, phone, social media, etc.), the State could have difficulty proving you are the one who made the contact (also possible in cases alleging third party contact). Typical defenses to a violation charge include:
- Lack of Proof / Lying on the Part of the Complaining Witness
- History of Lying on the Part of the Complaining Witness
- Proper service of process and notice regarding the No Contact Order
- Expiration of the No Contact Order
- The contact was not willful
Violations of No Contact Orders or Protective Orders are cases that the State takes very seriously. Because of the possibility of mandatory classes, jail time, as well as a domestic violence conviction on your record, it is critical to hire a Rhode Island No Contact Order Violation lawyer like David Ellison to handle your case. A Violation of No Contact Order charge in Rhode Island can be devastating. Contact David Ellison today at (401) 230-5520.