Connecticut’s definition of family violence includes both acts of physical violence as well as threats of physical violence. Family violence is not charged as a separate and distinct offense, but rather is any felony or misdemeanor crime where the facts involve physical violence or threats of violence against a family or household member.
Family Violence Defined
Connecticut law defines “family violence” as an act between family or household members that results in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; or a threat of violence between family or household members that causes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault. Verbal abuse and arguments between family or household members do not constitute family violence unless there is present danger and physical violence is likely to occur.
The following persons are “family or household members”:
- current or former spouses
- parents and their children
- persons 18 years or older related by blood or marriage
- persons 16 years or older who currently or formerly resided together (other than persons who are 18 years or older who are related by blood or marriage)
- persons who have a child together, regardless of whether they have ever been married or resided together at any time, and
- persons who are currently or have recently been in a dating relationship.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38a).
Peace officers are required to arrest and charge any person or persons suspected of committing a family violence crime. Where the persons involved in a family violence incident accuse each other of being the perpetrator, the officer is required to consider each person’s complaint separately to determine whether to make an arrest or seek an arrest warrant.
Officers responding to a family violence scene must provide immediate assistance to the victim, including assisting the victim in obtaining medical treatment, informing the victim of counseling and other available victim services, and notifying the victim of the right to file an affidavit for an arrest warrant. Additionally, officers are required to complete a family violence offense report, whether or not an arrest is made.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 46b-38b, 38d).
Family Violence Response & Intervention Units
Connecticut law establishes family violence response and intervention units. These units accept referrals from prosecutors and judges and prepare reports for court use at upcoming hearings. The units also provide or arrange for the provision of services to victims and offenders. Counselors, trainees, and supervisors employed in the family violence response and intervention units are required to inform the court if the victim indicates that the defendant has a permit to carry a pistol or revolver or possesses a firearm. Unit counselors, trainees, and supervisors also have a duty to inform the Department of Children and Families of information indicating that a defendant poses a danger to a child or the custodial parent of a child.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38c)
Protective & Restraining Orders
A Superior Court judge may issue a protective order where deemed necessary to protect the victim from threats, harassment, or injury. A protective order may order the defendant to refrain from:
- imposing any restraint on the person or liberty of the victim
- threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, or sexually assaulting the victim, and
- entering the family dwelling or the victim’s dwelling.
The judge must make the protective order a condition of the defendant’s bail or release from jail, and the order must notify the defendant that violation of the order not only violates the terms of bail or release, but is also a criminal offense carrying up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and that entering or remaining in any building or other premises in violation of the order constitutes criminal trespass in the first degree, which carries up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38c)
Even where a protective order has not been issued in response to a family violence arrest, a family or household member alleging a continuous threat of present physical pain or injury, stalking, or a pattern of threats may petition the Superior Court for a civil restraining order. The judge may impose the same above-listed conditions to protect the family or household member, and such orders can remain in effect for up to six months.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-15)
Standing Criminal Protective Orders
After considering the history and nature of the circumstances of the defendant's criminal conduct, a court may issue a standing criminal protective order where a defendant has been convicted of any of the following offenses committed against a household or family member:
- injury or risk of injury to or impairing the morals of a child
- first degree assault
- first-degree assault, second-degree assault, or second-degree assault with a firearm where the victim is elderly, blind, disabled, pregnant, or mentally retarded
- assault in the second degree or assault in the second degree with a firearm
- first, second, third, or fourth-degree sexual assault, third-degree sexual assault with a firearm
- aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, sexual assault in a spousal or cohabitating relationship, aggravated sexual assault on a minor
- stalking in the first, second, third degree
- harassment in the first or second degree
- criminal violation of a protective order, a standing criminal order, or a restraining order, or
- attempt or conspiracy to commit murder or any of the above offenses.
A court may also issue a standing criminal protective order for any offense constituting a family violence crime or the conspiracy to commit such a crime. The court can order the same terms available under protective orders. Violation of a standing criminal protective order can carry up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Consult A Lawyer
If you are charged with a crime in Connecticut that involves family violence, you should consult with an attorney experienced in handling such cases. An attorney will guide you throughout the process while protecting your rights. An attorney can seek to have your charges reduced or dismissed or file motions to have evidence excluded from trial. An attorney may negotiate a favorable resolution of your case. If your case proceeds to trial, an attorney will challenge the prosecutor’s case while advocating for your acquittal.