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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ind. Law - "Debate over protection orders: Streamlined for victims; now some think burden of proof too low"

Here is the long story in the Sunday South Bend Tribune, reported by Virginia Black. A quote from the lengthy story:

A legal remedy meant to help protect those afraid for their safety -- the protection order -- has become easier to seek and more quickly available to law enforcement. Such an order forbids one person from harassing, stalking or going near another.

Over the last decade, the process has been tweaked to help victims more easily file petitions, for free, requesting the civil-court documents that can save lives, authorities say.

But others contend the relatively low burden of proof needed for a judge to grant a protection order without even a court hearing is unfair and could potentially affect job seekers, their names online for all to see, even if an order is ultimately dismissed.

The 2012 brutal death of Mishawaka resident Trina Winston -- whose husband had a history of domestic violence against her -- led to an uptick of petitions that year, to 1,119.

Otherwise, St. Joseph County's numbers of granted orders in the last five years have teetered between 912 in 2009 and 1,037 in 2013.

More than 87,000 active orders are in the Indiana registry. The numbers of new petitions statewide has grown from 60,548 in 2009 to 68,339 in 2013.

Indiana law allows a judge to grant a protection order petition without a hearing -- called "ex parte," St. Joseph Circuit Court Judge Michael Gotsch explains. He or she can also deny the petition outright based on merit, or schedule a hearing.

A little more than half the time, the petitions are granted ex parte. They're dismissed about 5 percent of the time, he guesses, and hearings are ordered in the rest.

"I don't think anybody is doing these in a cavalier manner," Gotsch said. "We understand the ramifications of what happens here. We have to make sure the least of us is protected."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 26, 2014 11:03 AM
Posted to Indiana Law