Kay Radwanski on behalf of the
Committee on the Impact of Domestic Violence and the Courts
Judge Wendy Million, Chair
The Committee on the Impact of Domestic Violence and the Courts (CIDVC) requests permission to file a late comment to R-17-0030: Amending Conditions of Release re: Contact with Victim. This petition did not come to CIDVC’s attention within the comment period; nevertheless, the committee has serious concerns about the implications it imposes on the economic needs and physical safety of domestic violence victims.
Making no contact with a victim a mandatory condition of release, without a specific finding of good cause by the court, is a rule that makes sense in most criminal cases—except domestic violence cases. In domestic violence cases, the dynamics are very different. There may be good reasons for imposing a no-contact order, but there also may be very good reasons not to do so. To make an informed decision, the best practice is first to get the victim’s opinion about his or her safety and needs and then also refer to any DV risk or lethality assessment provided to the court.
It is not rare, in domestic violence cases, to find that the victim and the defendant live together and have children in common. Many times, the offender is the family’s sole support. Often a victim may actually be safer when there is continued contact with the offender—both for financial and safety reasons. A victim who depends on the offender's financial support may see the rent check and the grocery money suddenly evaporate if a no-contact order is imposed. Even more, separation can be an extremely dangerous time for victims, and they have calculated that staying in the relationship is a safer choice for them. Domestic violence victims are usually the best judges of their own safety, and the courts should not take away their autonomy to make that decision. Also, for alleged offenders, a no-contact order may render them homeless, which can result in other damaging impacts on their lives—something to which the Arizona Supreme Court alludes in its Justice for All report.
Because of these serious issues in domestic violence cases specifically, CIDVC is asking the Court to entertain these late comments and concerns.