What is the Court Advocacy Program?
The purpose of the Court Advocacy Program is to support and empower the victim, validate the victim’s concerns, represent the victim’s wishes and promote the victim’s access to services. Our advocate will assist the victim in the development of a safety plan and then support the decisions made through this plan.
How does the Court Advocacy Program work?
If someone is charged by the police with committing a domestic violence crime against you, your court advocate will contact you to:
- Explain your rights as the victim of a crime;
- Explain the court process and what you can expect;
- Convey your wishes to the prosecutors.
However, our court advocates are not attorneys and they cannot provide legal advice or representation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why was there an arrest?
Rhode Island considers domestic violence a serious crime and has enacted mandatory arrest laws. This means that once the police find enough evidence to believe that a crime has been committed, they are required to arrest the primary aggressor.
Will I have to go to Court?
It is important for you to come to court because your input in the case is valuable, but, unless you are subpoenaed or specifically told to appear, you are not required to go to court.
Do I need an Attorney?
You are not being charged with a crime and do not need an attorney. Your court advocate can explain the court process to you and will assist you with any paperwork that you may need to fill out.
Can I drop the charges?
The state of Rhode Island is pressing the charges and it is up to the prosecutor or solicitor to go forward with the case.
What is a No Contact Order?
The No Contact Order is a condition of the defendant’s bail or sentence and makes it illegal for the defendant to contact you in anyway.
How do I remove the No Contact Order?
To remove a No Contact Order you will have to go before a judge and ask for it to be vacated. Each judge requires different evidence before making a decision so it is important that you talk with your court advocate before coming to court.
What can I do if the defendant violates the No Contact Order?
You can call the police and report the violation or file a report where the violation has occurred.
What is the difference between a No Contact Order and a Restraining Order?
Often these two court terms are used interchangeably, however, No Contact Orders and Restraining Orders are different:
No Contact Orders:
- Are issued automatically after an arrest.
- In order to vacate (remove), the victim must ask a judge and the judge bases the decision on the evidence and history of the case.
- Makes any type of contact (telephone calls, showing up at work, sending flowers, etc.) an arrestable offense even if the victim wants contact.
- Does not require that the defendant vacate the household.
- Does not grant temporary custody of the children.
- Only protects the victim of the crime.
- Victim must request the order and meet certain criteria.
- Is in full force and effect for a period up to 3 years but can be renewed.
- The victim can vacate (remove) the order by filing a motion with the judge.
- Makes any type of contact (telephone calls, showing up at work, sending flowers, etc.) an arrest-able offense.
- Can require that the defendant vacate the shared household.
- Grants temporary custody and child support to the victim (plaintiff).
- Can be written to protect children that both the victim and defendant share.
Tips on Going to Court
You may contact your court advocate before going so that the advocate can let you know what to expect and what you will need. However, here are some general tips to know ahead of time:
- You will probably need a photo I.D.
- Because you may be sitting in the courtroom for a long time, it’s a good idea to try to find childcare for your children.
- Finally, it is very important to dress appropriately. You may not be allowed to address the judge or go into the courtroom if you are wearing shorts, tank tops, sunglasses or a midriff.
If you have questions about the court process, please call our court advocate at 401-458-3372.
Restraining Order Office (Garrahy Courthouse)
RI Legal Services
Oficina de Inmigrantes y Refugiados