Orders of protection are used by the Courts to protect alleged victims of domestic abuse.
Tennessee law defines domestic abuse as physical abuse, threat of physical abuse, placing another in fear of physical abuse, sexual assault, threatening to harm a pet, malicious damage to property, sexual assault, and, in some situations, stalking.
The victims protected under this statute are spouses, those in dating relationships, roommates, those related by blood or adoption, and those related by marriage.
When an order of protection is issued by a Judge or Magistrate, it prohibits the abuser from contacting (directly or indirectly) the victim, coming around the victim, stalking the victim, or committing any form of domestic violence against the victim.
Applying for an Order of Protection
When a victim applies for an order of protection, they appear in front of a Judge or Magistrate who determines whether the order should be temporarily issued. A temporary “ex-parte” order is issued when it is shown that the alleged victim is in immediate and present danger of abuse.
When a temporary order is issued, the alleged abuser is entitled to a hearing within 15 days. Upon issuance, the alleged abuser is also prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
Rights of the Accused
The alleged abuser is entitled to notice of the accusations against them, the opportunity to cross-examine any adverse witness, and the opportunity to present their own witnesses and evidence in front of a Judge. If the Judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that domestic abuse has occurred, then the Judge may issue an order of protection for one year.
If an order is violated while in effect, the Court may extend that order for five years upon the first violation and ten years upon the second violation. The abuser is subject to criminal charges if they are found to be in violation of an order of protection of which they had notice.
By law, when an order is issued against a party they must be given notice that they cannot possess firearms. Additionally, the abuser must provide the Court with a signed affidavit stating that they rid themselves of all firearms.
When the victim is applying for an order of protection, they are entitled to receive help from the clerk in properly filling out the form. The victim is protected by the contempt power of the Courts from being contacted or abused by their abuser (directly or indirectly).
The victim is entitled to notice that their abuser has the right to make bond and that they have, in fact, made bond. The victim also has the right to be transported away from the abuser by police to a place where the victim will be safe.
Police Officer Considerations
When called to the scene of alleged domestic abuse incidents, police officers investigate the accusations and determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest.
Many times there are accusations from both sides of the dispute. In these instances, the officer is charged with determining who is the “primary aggressor.” In making this determination, the officer considers the history of domestic abuse between the parties, the severity of the injuries on each person, the evidence from the parties involved, the likelihood of future injury to the parties, whether one of the parties was acting in self-defense, and evidence from 3rd party witnesses of the domestic abuse. If police officers have probable cause to make an arrest, they must seize all weapons or firearms used against the victim.