How many victim protective orders are filed in Oklahoma County? I discovered an increase. The 2,400 victim protective orders applied for in Oklahoma County District Court by mid-September are more than any year since 2003. The 2,400 is 123 more than in the same time period last year and 173 more than two years ago.
The identity of victims is a sensitive situation. So I chose to talk with a judge who presides over these cases. Oklahoma County Special Judge Don Easter, who has heard VPOs for about six weeks, suggested including a couple of judges with more experience. District Judge Donald Deason has three and a half years experience on these cases and Special Judge Barry Hafar has two years experience. Let me skip to the heart of what the three had to say, which was not about numbers but rather about people: Don't hesitate to apply for one. "I've sat at the bench and seen somebody that clearly fears the other side,” Hafar said. "A lot of the evidence that we hear in these case isn't necessarily verbal, a lot of it you can just see from the faces. When there's domestic violence and you see that in the application, there's a no tolerance policy.” So, why would an application be denied? The victim protection order statute is part of the domestic abuse docket. There are protected relationships such as a spouse, ex-spouse or someone you are or were dating. Others who can be considered include those being stalked and rape victims. Not included would be someone with an opposing Bedlam belief walking up and punching you in the nose. Deason and Hafar gave that example. As Easter points out, a person can be charged with assault and battery in a criminal case, but not be eligible for a protective order. The judges can't give legal advice.
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How does the process work?An explanation by Oklahoma County District Court Judge Donald Deason: When people decide to seek protection of the courts in terms of the victim protective order, the first place they go is to the office of Court Clerk Patricia Presley. The deputy court clerks assist the applicants in explaining the forms. Applicants provide their personal information and information about the person they are seeking the order against. Then they write out a statement as to why they believe they are entitled to a protective order. Once that is done, then the application goes to the assigned judge, who reviews it. The judge can grant an emergency order, which gives the person the protection of the court as soon as the order is signed by the court. Or the judge can deny the emergency order, but set the matter for hearing. "We can determine whether a protective order needs to be issued or not or we can, if it does not meet the legal criteria, deny the emergency order and deny the application altogether.” The court clerk picks up the completed orders and takes them to the sheriff's office. A deputy will find the person who the protective order is against. A deputy has to put the order in that person's hand. "We have to set the matter for hearing within 20 days after the application has been filed and approved.”
Domestic violence: Safety plan guidelinesThese suggestions come from safety plans distributed by domestic violence coalitions from across the country. If you stay and the offender leaves: •Change locks and phone number. •Change work hours and route taken to work. •Change route taken to transport children to school. •Keep a certified copy of your victim protective order with you at all times. •Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a victim protective order in effect. •Give copies of your victim protective order to employers, neighbors, and schools along with a picture of the offender. •Call law enforcement to enforce the order. If you leave: •Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail. •Be aware that addresses are on victim protection orders and police reports. •Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number. •Check into registering with the Client Confidentiality Program sponsored by the U.S. Secretary of State. For more information call the YWCA 24-hotline, 917-9922. •Change your work hours if possible. •Alert school authorities of situation. •Consider changing your children's schools. •Reschedule appointments that offender is aware of. •Use different stores and frequent different social spots. •Alert neighbors and request that they call the police if they think you may be in danger. •Talk to trusted people about the violence. •Replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors. Install security systems if possible. •Install a lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to the house — motion sensitive lights. •Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible. •Tell people who take care of your children which individuals are allowed to pick up your children. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the victim protective order. •Call the telephone company to request caller ID and ask that your new phone number be unlisted. For more information, go to www.ocadvsa.org, the Web site of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Or call YWCA's Victim's Assistance Program, 297-1139.
Online at NewsOK.comSeveral Oklahoma County judges explain the concept of a victim protection order, as well as their reasons for granting and denying the request.