The Public Safety Act of 2016 authorizes courts and law enforcement officers to initiate an Order of Protection when there has been a domestic abuse incident where the Court finds after an initial appearance on a domestic abuse charge, there is probable cause to believe there was serious bodily harm to the victim or the defendant used or displayed a deadly weapon. A law enforcement officer may also request an Order on behalf of the victim, where the victim consents to the filing. Previously, only the victim of domestic abuse could initiate an Order of Protection.
Another enactment provides that courts hearing an Order of Protection may now grant possession of a residence or household to the victim, to the exclusion of the defendant, in cases where the Order of Protection is sought because of sexual assault or stalking. Under previous law, the court could only order the defendant to vacate a residence or household if the alleged grounds for the Order of Protection involved physical abuse of the victim.
These new changes may assist victims of domestic abuse in obtaining an Order of Protection, and in getting an order that will allow a safe place to live while the order is in place. Victims may feel safer if they can be granted exclusive possession of a residence. It may also be easier for victims to request the order where the courts and law enforcement are actively involved in the request and the victim does not have to make a separate trip to the courthouse to file a petition for the order, and does not have to take sole responsibility for initiating a request for an order.