One of the biggest changes caused by the 2015 Domestic Violence Reform Act was moving many first offense CDV cases into General Sessions. As a result many cases that before could have been prosecuted in Magistrate or specialized CDV courts are now in "big court."
Many\Most defendants with cases in General Sessions have no contact restrictions imposed by the bond court. This means that in order to avoid staying in jail while their case is pending they must avoid any contact with the alleged victim. This means no in-person contact, no phone calls, no text messages, and no e-mails. When no contact restrictions are in place it doesn't matter who initiates the contact, the defendant is the one who is punished for any violation.
For many couples facing a CDV prosecution, it can be tough to strictly comply with a no contact order. Couples may not be able to afford to operate two separate households while a case is pending. They may have shared childcare responsibility. They may work, or own a business together. Or they just might not be able to stay away from each other.
Unlike a Magistrate level CDV charge, the charges sent up to General Session all carry the possibility of years in prison. This is even for first offenses and even for cases where there may be no actual physical injury. Defendants who are caught violating the no contact portion of their bond may find themselves immediately sentenced to jail, this time with no chance at a second bond. Or they might find that the prosecutor threatens them with jailing them for a violation if they don't agree to a plea they otherwise wouldn't want to do.
Even for defendants willing to take a plea (that may subject them to a felony record, probation, and the possibility of a jail\prison sentence), it may take weeks or months in order to get a court date. For defendants who intend on pleading "not guilty" it might take even longer to get an actual trial date (it is not unusual for a defendant to sit in jail for years waiting on a trial date).
Based on all of this it is even more important for defendants with cases in General Sessions to strictly follow all bond conditions, especially no contact orders. Here is our advice:
- Strictly comply with all no contact bond restrictions
- Remember, it doesn't matter who initiates the contact, the defendant can be in trouble even if it was initiated by the alleged victim and was consensual
- If you and your partner need to be together or to talk, file a motion to obtain the court's permission first (your lawyer does this)
No contact restrictions will be lifted automatically at the end of the case (unless included as a term of probation), or upon the judge making a specific ruling. The alleged victim will need to be in court to tell the judge that they are in agreement with the no contact restrictions being lifted. It still may take several weeks, or more, to get a hearing scheduled and it remains important to still comply with the restrictions while you are waiting on that court date.
If you have questions about your or a loved one's pending domestic violence case, you are welcome to contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, for a free consultation. You will receive a copy of James Snell's book, Challenging CDV 2nd Edition, which has been updated to include the recent changes in the law.