Criminal court judges recognize that people can make terrible mistakes and act out violently – sometimes against people they love or live with. Judges recognize that some of the individuals arrested for domestic violence crimes require counseling and treatment as an alternative to being locked up in jail. This is particularly so in the case of a “first time” offender. If you are a first time offender, you can learn more about jail alternatives here.
Family Relations Counselors
The courts have created the Court Support Services Division, which is made up of court employees called Family Relations Counselors, that oversee domestic violence cases, and actively work at reforming people arrested for domestic violence crimes.
If you have been arrested for a domestic violence crime, your pre-trial release will be supervised by a Family Relations Counselor. You will meet with this individual on the first court date following your arrest. You will be interviewed about your background, your relationship with the victim(s), and the incident that led to your arrest. The Family Relations Counselor will also separately interview the victim(s).
The Family Relations Counselor will then submit a written report to the judge, with recommendations, about the following:
- The level of criminal protective order and restrictions that may be placed against you;
- The need for a more detailed individual assessment of your situation; and
- The release conditions, including counseling and other appropriate programs, you require.
After your arraignment, you will again report to your Family Relations Counselor, who will administratively monitor your progress and compliance with your protective order and conditions of release.
Inpatient and Outpatient Programs
The Court Support Services Division contracts with private service providers who offer both inpatient and outpatient programs that address domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, anger management, and domestic relations. As part of your court-ordered release conditions, the judge will make you participate in one or more of these programs. You will not have a choice in this. The Family Relations Counselor will monitor your participation.
The judge can order you to participate in group or individual classes. You can be required to report in to a counselor on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You may have to submit to urine tests for use of narcotics, alcohol, or prescription medicines. The judge has a wide latitude to set release conditions in your case. Whatever conditions are set, you will need to obey them.
Once you are placed under the supervision of a Family Relations Counselor, you must:
- Attend any required meetings and fully cooperate with the Counselor’s recommendations;
- Participate in any court-ordered programs and comply with any court-ordered testing;
- Obey your protective order and any other court orders; and
- Live a non-violent life without any new arrests.
On each of your court dates, the Family Relations Counselor will prepare a written report to the judge. If you are not compliant with your release conditions, the judge could raise your bond and order your arrest. In addition, the prosecutor could also charge you with a new additional crime of Violation of Release Conditions. This crime has different penalties depending on your original arrest charges. If your arrest charge was a felony, then you will be charged with a new Class D felony, for which you are exposed up to five years in jail. If your arrest charge was a misdemeanor, then you will be charged with a new Class A misdemeanor, for which you are exposed up to one year in jail.
Many times, someone charged with a domestic violence crime will want to seek an alternative to jail. However, there are several factors to consider, especially for your personal situation, before you seek these alternatives.