Protection orders can be critical to survivor safety. However, orders will not be effective if survivors aren’t presented with an understandable and clear process to obtain an order, and if abusers are not held accountable when they violate civil or criminal protection orders. This requires a seamless process for the issuance, service and enforcement of protection orders.
The Full Faith and Credit (FFC) provision (18 U.S.C. § 2265) of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994. This provision mandates that courts and law enforcement recognize and enforce protection orders from other U.S. jurisdictions as if they were issued in their jurisdiction. FFC allows survivors with protection orders to move throughout the United States and its territories without needing to obtain new Court orders. Subsequent reauthorizations of VAWA have significantly revised the FFC provision.
Protection orders are an important tool that survivors can utilize to obtain safety and economic security; however, enforcement of a protection order can be complicated. Courts throughout the United States and its and territories, as well as many Tribal Courts, issue protection orders that address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Protection orders vary from state to state and many survivors have complex terms and conditions in their orders. Responding law enforcement officers are called upon to make a decision on the spot to determine whether or not probable cause exists to arrest the respondent. Additionally, courts and law enforcement may not understand the FFC provisions of VAWA that mandate inter-jurisdictional enforcement of orders, even if the order has not been registered in their jurisdiction.
Each discipline involved in the protection order process requires training and consistent information to effectively implement protection orders within and between jurisdictions. Since the enactment of VAWA in 1994, considerable progress has occurred in improving the timely issuance and enforcement of protection orders. Even with that progress, the system is still plagued with inconsistent practices and procedures. The different types of orders issued by Courts perplex many prosecutors, court staff, judges, and law enforcement agencies. This is especially true regarding enforcement of tribal protection orders across jurisdictional lines. Lack of coordination, communication and understanding amongst disciplines are significant enforcement barriers. With new attorneys, advocates, law enforcement, and court personnel entering the field every day, and because the laws are constantly changing, it is important to provide updated training and technical assistance on a continuous basis to ensure that protection orders are enforced.
Protection Orders and Firearms Prohibitions
The combination of domestic violence and firearms is clearly dangerous. Firearms pose a very real threat to survivors who decide to petition for protection orders or participate in the criminal justice process against their intimate partners. Failure to keep weapons out of the hands of domestic violence offenders also puts the lives of law enforcement officers at risk. Domestic violence abusers with firearms pose a risk to the entire community.
Those who are subject to protection orders (18 U.S.C. §922 (g)(8)) or have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (18 U.S.C. §922 (g)(9)) may be prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms and ammunition. NCPOFFC works to improve knowledge and enforcement of federal and state firearm laws and ways to remove guns from abusers. It is especially important to provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions on the development of policies and procedures for storage, destruction and return of these weapons consistent with due process.
The lives of domestic violence victims, their children and family members depend upon the effectiveness of laws and systems that remove firearms from dangerous batterers. Enforcement of federal and state domestic violence-related firearm prohibitions are a significant challenge for state and local law enforcement. Police, sheriffs, and other law enforcement agencies are often unclear on their legal authority to search for and seize firearms possessed by domestic violence offenders. Even in jurisdictions with established laws, and an awareness of the prohibitions, there remains a reluctance to enforce any restricting firearm provisions. Some judges resist the imposition of firearm prohibitions, and some law enforcement agencies (local, state, and federal) are equally reluctant to enforce orders related to firearm relinquishment.
To address these problems, and improve the safety of victims and law enforcement officers, NCPOFFC provides training and technical assistance on the firearm prohibitions related to domestic violence.