In honor of Valentines Day we decided to tackle the topic of when romance goes sour. In Minnesota, domestic abuse charges can arise out of out conduct that involves fear of or actual physical harm, bodily injury, and assault. It also includes terroristic threats and criminal sexual misconduct (see Minnesota Statute 518B for more details).
When domestic abuse charges are involved the court usually issues a no contact for the duration of the case. Prosecutors typically request these orders on behalf of the alleged victim at the first hearing. The court has sole authority to issue or lift a no contact order and both the defendant and the alleged victim must comply. A no contact order is serious business - violation of these orders can lead to a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or even a felony depending on the situation.
When a no contact order is in place this means that the defendant cannot have contact with the alleged victim AT ALL. No phone calls, e-mails, or any communication. This includes walking the other direction if you see the person on the street. No contact orders can include people having to leave their homes to avoid contact. This can get complicated when the homeowner is forced to leave his or her home while someone simply staying at the home remains on the premises. This can become expensive if someone has no relatives or friends to stay with, but violating a no contact order can lead to further legal problems.
Complying with no contact orders can be difficult with today’s technology. Text messages are considered contact and even something as simple as a tweet or “liking” a Facebook post can be considered contact under the law. Any contact via social media is still contact despite its virtual nature. Even if a defendant does not initiate the contact and simply responds to a Facebook message, a tweet, or a text message it can still be considered a violation of a no contact order.
Valentines Day and other holidays can be tempting times to initiate contact. No contact orders can only be lifted by the court and there are no inherent exceptions for special occasions. An alleged victim does not have the authority to lift a no contact order and cannot invite a defendant to have contact without constituting a violation. Risking additional criminal charges just isn’t worth it so stay safe, happy, and compliant with no contact orders – Happy Valentines Day!