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Sunday, April 2, 2023
Home Government Holding Court: Domestic Violence Cases

Holding Court: Domestic Violence Cases

Holding Court is a new series by retired Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin. Latwin retired from the court in December 2022 after thirteen years of service to the City.

This week he discusses how Rye City Court handles domestic violence cases.

By Joe Latwin

Where I Work showcases people who work in Rye. The feature is inspired in part by exploring how the pandemic has impacted our work environment and part by wanting to understand how and where people work inside the City of Rye. Today we meet library director Chris Shoemaker. Do you know someone we should interview for Where I Work? Tell us!
(PHOTO: Judge Joe Latwin)

When I first became City Judge, then Judges Peter Lane and Richard Runes sat me down and warned me that I would soon hear about the unseemly lives of friends and neighbors. Nowhere was this truer than in the domestic violence cases that came before me. Thankfully, there are few domestic violence cases and few brought before the court in Rye.

I was often amazed at the stupidity of people involved in domestic violence cases.  It’s bad enough to hit another, especially a supposed loved one. That solves nothing, but only make the situation worse. The bad guys often memorialize their threats in writing. That makes them look bad and stupidly creates evidence of their intent. Even more stupid are the people who work in the financial industry who put their threats in emails from their office email account. Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, all financial organizations are required to maintain all emails, thus those threatening emails will be readily available and could and probably will be career ending events for the financial industry employee, in addition to making them look bad in court. Advice, love your spouse and children.

The party making the complaint often miscalculates the effect of making the complaint.  It is often the crossing of the Rubicon leading to complete breakdown of the relationship or marriage. The charged party will not be happy and may leave, cut off funding, or take other action to distance the parties. The parties may end up in Family Court over support, in a divorce case in Supreme Court, or both. How expensive do you think it would be to have lawyers in cases in three different courts? Sometimes complainants only wanted a temporary respite from a bad situation. They change their minds and want the case dropped, however, that is not the complainant’s prerogative. That is up to the DA. All the complainant can do is refuse to cooperate. If they do not cooperate, the DA can issue subpoenas for the complainant to testify and if they fail to show up, the complainant could be (but usually isn’t) prosecuted for contempt. Often, the defendant will seek to move the case quickly and seek a prompt hearing forcing the complainant to testify. If the complainant choses not to testify, it is likely (since there are usually no other witnesses to the defendant’s alleged acts) the case will not be able to proceed and will be dismissed.

Most domestic violence cases arise when one party calls the police complaining of the other party. The parties may be spouses, boyfriend/girlfriend, or child and parent living in the same household. Upon arrival of the police, if the complaint is founded, the police will arrest one of the parties, usually for assault, harassment, or Criminal Contempt. Often the conflict is created or fueled by alcohol.  It is not all it might appear to be.  Some children have figured out that making a complaint may be a way of punishing a parent for putting restrictions on the child. “If you take away by cell phone, I’ll call the police and have you arrested.” Yes, that happened.

Often, the DA will ask for the issuance of a temporary order of protection (“TOP”).  That requires a Judge to issue it. After the arrest, the charged party will be brought into police headquarters, booked, fingerprinted, and released on their own recognizance unless a TOP is requested. If a TOP is requested, the defendant will be held in lock up until the Judge can get to Court. If the arrest is made late at night, the Judge called at home. It takes some time for the Judge to get up, get out of bed, get dressed, and drive to Court. I will discuss TOPs (temporary order of protection) next week.


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