Domestic Violence Restraining Orders in California During the Coronavirus Pandemic | Chugh LLP

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders in California During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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By: Brinda Gandhi and Swetha Gopalakrishnan

The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is leading to a public crisis of domestic violence. Although stay-at-home orders are crucial to curbing the spread of COVID-19, they are also causing a spike in domestic violence cases since many victims are spending increased time with their oppressors.[1] While courts are generally closed, states like California have enacted special emergency protections for people experiencing domestic violence.

what is domestic violence?

According to the California Family Code, “domestic violence” is abuse perpetrated by or against a spouse or former spouse, cohabitant or former cohabitant, or any person related by family or affinity.[2] “Abuse” is defined as:[3] (1) intentionally, recklessly,  causing or attempting to cause bodily injury; (2) sexual assault; (3) putting someone in reasonable apprehension of fear and/or of imminent serious bodily injury to themselves or others; or (4) engaging in any behavior that has been or could be prohibited based on the law.

Abuse is not limited to the act of physical injury or assault. In California, abuse includes molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, credibly impersonating falsely personating, harassing, telephoning (including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls), destroying personal property, contacting by mail or otherwise in a manner that disturbs the other party (either directly or indirectly), and coming within a specified distance of or disturbing the peace of the other party. Courts may expand this definition to include another named family or household member.[4]

impact of covid-19 on domestic VIOLENCE

Even before the pandemic, an average of 20 people in the United States experienced physical domestic violence every minute.[5] Following the spread of COVID-19, many US localities[6] have seen significant increases in domestic violence cases.[7]

The current pandemic may make it difficult for victims to take advantage of available resources since they have limited time away from their abusers.[8] Many victims also feel that they can no longer seek refuge at their parents’ homes due to travel restrictions and fear of exposing their elderly parents to the virus.[9] Moreover, victims of domestic violence may fear entering hospitals and emergency rooms due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure. As such, many victims of domestic violence lack the ability or means to find help.[10]

support available to victims of domestic violence during covid-19

Luckily, police and health care officials in the United States are adapting their domestic violence response plans to ensure victims can get help despite restrictions on public movement.[11]

Traditional support services are still available too. Victims can call the domestic violence hotline at any time at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or use the online chat option. Various community service organizations are providing remote services such as the California Indian Legal Services,[12] Center for Community Solutions, [13] Community Resource Center.[14]

domestic violence rules and orders by the courts in california

Emergency protective orders (EPOs) and restraining orders are critical sources of protection for domestic violence victims. These orders can prevent abusers from contacting or being in proximity with the victim. Courts in various parts of the country have started issuing special domestic violence rules so that victims can get these sorts of support even when courthouses are otherwise closed to the public.

In California, an emergency protective order (EPO) may now be issued for up to 30 days (increased from seven days).[15] A police officer can request that the judge issue an emergency protective order during the week. Even when the courts are closed on weekends, police officers can help victims obtain a temporary restraining order or EPO. If an existing restraining order or protective order is set to expire during the emergency, the court must extend it for up to 90 days.[16] Victims can get this support by calling 911 or their local police station. A trusted attorney can be a critical source of support in helping victims extend their EPO and obtain any related protective orders.

Considering the state’s Stay at Home order,[17] several California counties and superior courts have developed additional support systems for domestic violence victims. Los Angeles County has set up emergency services and resources for victims.[18] San Bernardino county allows individuals to request police officer assistance in obtaining an emergency protective order during the non-operational hours of the superior court,[19] while the Superior Court for the County of Riverside allows individuals to obtain relief as soon as they complete an application on its online portal for restraining orders against domestic violence or abuse.[20] Similarly in the Superior Court for Contra Costa County, domestic violence restraining order documents can be completed using an online step-by-step tool.[21]

CONCLUSION

While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to closures of courthouses, individuals staying at home must be aware of their rights. People dealing with domestic violence or abuse should reach out to their local police officers and/or use virtual court services to protect themselves during these unprecedented and difficult times. Contact a compassionate Chugh, LLP attorney for help extending an emergency protective order or obtaining related protective orders to protect your rights.

[1] See https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/06/827908402/global-lockdowns-resulting-in-horrifying-surge-in-domestic-violence-u-n-warns 
[2] Cal. Fam. Code §6211.
[3] Cal. Fam. Code § 6203.
[4] Cal. Fam. Code §6320.
[5] https://ncadv.org/statistics
[6] See https://theconversation.com/domestic-violence-growing-in-wake-of-coronavirus-outbreak-135598
[7] https://www.yourconroenews.com/neighborhood/moco/news/article/Montgomery-County-DA-s-Office-sees-35-percent-15166757.php
[8] See https://time.com/5803887/coronavirus-domestic-violence-victims/
[9] Id.
[10] See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html
[11] Id.
[12] Contact (760) 746-8941.
[13] Contact the 24/7 crisis hotline (888) 385-4657 or (858) 272-5777.
[14]  Contact the domestic violence hotline 24/7 at (877) 633-1112 or (760) 753-0252.
[15] Emergency Rule 8(a); 8(b)(1). See https://jcc.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=8234474&GUID=79611543-6A40-465C-8B8B-D324F5CAE349
[16] Emergency Rule 8(a); 8(b)(2). See https://jcc.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=8234474&GUID=79611543-6A40-465C-8B8B-D324F5CAE349
[17] See http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/dvcouncil/
[18] https://covid19.lacounty.gov/covid19-news/la-county-resources-and-services-available-for-people-with-domestic-violence-and-child-abuse-concerns-during-covid-19/
[19] See https://www.sb-court.org/divisions/family-law/domestic-violence-and-restraining-orders
[20] See https://www.riverside.courts.ca.gov/SelfHelp/DomesticViolence/domestic-violence.php
[21] See https://california.tylerhost.net/SRL/SRL/Start?legalProcessKey=Domestic_Violence_Restraining_Order_Request

 

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