Orders of protection are legal documents intended to protect victims of abuse or harassment from further harm. They can be issued by both criminal and family courts, and typically prohibit the respondent from having any contact with the petitioner, including physical proximity, phone calls, emails, and social media interactions. In some cases, they may also require the respondent to surrender firearms or attend counseling sessions. However, a common question among survivors of abuse is whether an order of protection issued in one state will be recognized and enforced in another state, particularly if the abuser moves or travels across state lines. In this article, we will explore the legal and practical aspects of enforcing orders of protection across state lines, with a focus on New York State and its neighboring states.
Types Of Orders of Protection in New York State
New York State has a robust system of orders of protection, which are available both to victims of domestic violence and to victims of other crimes. In the criminal context, orders of protection are typically issued as part of a criminal case against the defendant, either before or after a trial. They may last for a fixed period of time, such as one year, or until further order of the court. Violating an order of protection is a crime in New York, punishable by fines and imprisonment, and may also result in a separate charge of criminal contempt.
In the family court context, orders of protection are typically issued in response to a petition filed by the petitioner, who may be a victim of domestic violence or a concerned third party, such as a friend or family member. The order may include provisions for child custody, child support, and spousal support, as well as for the protection of the petitioner from abuse or harassment. Violating an order of protection in family court may result in civil penalties, such as fines, loss of visitation rights, or even incarceration for repeated violations.
Enforcing Criminal Court Orders of Protection in Other States
One of the main challenges of enforcing orders of protection across state lines is the issue of jurisdiction. Each state has its own laws and procedures for issuing and enforcing orders of protection, and there is no national registry or database that tracks all orders of protection issued in the United States. As a result, it may be difficult for law enforcement officers or court officials in one state to verify the validity and content of an order of protection issued in another state. This may be particularly true for criminal court orders of protection, which are often part of a larger criminal case and may contain sensitive information such as the defendant’s criminal history, past behavior, and potential risks to the victim.
However, there are some federal laws that can help to facilitate the enforcement of criminal court orders of protection across state lines. One of these is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was first passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized several times since then. VAWA provides federal funding for various programs and services related to domestic violence, including training for law enforcement officers and prosecutors, grants for domestic violence shelters and hotlines, and the creation of a national domestic violence registry. Under VAWA, states are also required to give “full faith and credit” to orders of protection issued in other states, as long as certain conditions are met.
For example, under 18 U.S.C. § 2265, a state must enforce an order of protection issued by another state if:
- The order was issued by a court that had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of the case;
- The order is valid and enforceable under the law of the issuing state;
- The order was issued after the respondent had notice and an opportunity to be heard; and
- The order contains reasonable notice to the respondent of the terms and conditions of the order.
If these conditions are met, the state must enforce the order as if it were issued by its own court, and may use its own contempt powers to punish violations of the order. In addition, under the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS), which governs the transfer of probation and parole between states, a state must honor the terms and conditions of a criminal court order of protection issued by another state as a condition of supervision. This means that if a defendant is placed on probation or parole in another state, that state must ensure that the defendant complies with any orders of protection issued in New York or any other state.
Enforcing Family Court Orders of Protection in Other States
In some states orders of protection from their Family Courts may include all kinds of provisions. For example, in New Jersey orders of protection can include final visitation orderes. In New York State, while the Family Court does have the power to issue temporary orders of support, the application of these provisions to my knolwedge have never been litigated. However, if an Order of Protection contains orders that affect the visitation rights of a parent, in some situatiions it may not be possible to enforce them in other states due to issues regarding the UCCJEA, a Federal statute that deals with custody and visitation orders when parties live in different states.
New York Family Courts routinely include a provision in orders of protection that the respondent surrender any and all firearms to the police. The enforcement of this provision where the respondent resides out of state is often difficult and problematical.
Enforcing Surrender of Firearms Across State Lines
This requirement that a respondent with an active order of protecgtion surrender firearms is based on the belief that firearms are a significant risk factor in cases of domestic violence, and that removing firearms from the hands of abusers can help to reduce the risk of harm to survivors. However, enforcing this provision across state lines can be difficult, as different states may have different laws and policies regarding firearms ownership and transfer.
Under federal law, certain individuals are prohibited from possessing firearms, including those who have been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanor offenses, those who are subject to a domestic violence restraining order, and those who have been adjudicated as mentally incompetent or committed to a mental institution. In addition, federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to conduct a background check on all prospective purchasers, and to maintain records of all firearm transactions. However, these laws do not apply to private sales of firearms between individuals, which may occur outside of a licensed dealer’s premises.
Because state laws and procedures vary between states, it may be difficult to enforce these types of provisions in NYS orders in other states, however the Full Faith and Credit provision of the US Contsitution requires court of all states to enforcce valid orders from other states, so that there will be often be a way to enforce these provisions in other states, subject to recent chalenges in the constitutional rights of gun owners, discussed below.
In 2022 the Supreme Court of the United States decided the first tne case on the Second Amendment in many years, and dramatically changed the landscape of gun laws throughout the country. State Courts are, as the of the date of this article, trying to figure out how this landmark decision must be taken into account in their own state laws.
In a recent federal appeals court case, U.S. v Rahimi, the 5th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals held that it was unconstitutional to deny someone the right to posess a firearm just becaue he was the subject of a domestic violence restraining order. This decision, as of the date of this article, only applies in Texas, Louisiana, and Missippi, but it is likely that it will be followed by Courts of other states.
To enforce a provision requiring the surrender of firearms across state lines, the petitioner or their attorney may need to take several steps, including:
- Obtaining a copy of the New York State order of protection, including the specific language
- Registering the order with the courts of the other state
- Once the order of protection has been registered, providing a copy of it to the local police department or sheriff’s office closest to the respondent’s home.
- If the local police refuse to enforce the order, it may be necessary to retain a local attorney to file for an order in the local family court or family court equivalent in the other state.
The laws regarding Orders of Protection and their enforcement can be complicated, as they can involve different courts, jurisdictions, and laws. However, it is important to understand the implications of these orders and how they can impact someone’s safety and legal rights. If you are facing a situation involving domestic violence, abuse, or harassment, it is recommended that you seek the assistance of an attorney or an advocate who can help you understand your options and rights.
In conclusion, while the enforcement of Orders of Protection across state lines can be complex, it is possible under certain circumstances. The Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act provides a framework for the recognition and enforcement of Orders of Protection issued by New York State or any other state. Additionally, federal laws such as the Violence Against Women Act and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act may apply in cases involving firearms and domestic violence.
If you have questions about Orders of Protection or domestic violence, it is essential to seek legal advice from a qualified attorney or advocate. They can provide you with the information and support you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. Remember that domestic violence is a serious crime and should not be taken lightly. If you or someone you know is in danger, call the police immediately.