Recently our State Supreme Court resolved a troubling issue related to restraining orders for domestic violence defendants. The clarity the Court has brought to the issue will undoubtedly help people facing domestic violence convictions vacate those conviction records in the future – faster.
Most misdemeanor domestic violence crimes are prosecuted in district and municipal courts. Most people convicted of these crimes receive a suspended sentence; meaning the judge imposes a full sentence but holds back the vast majority of jail and fines conditioned on the defendant's compliance with certain obligations – like treatment and law-abiding behavior. Courts can suspend sentence for up to five years, but typically use a shorter period of time.
In recent years an issue has arose regarding how long a court could restrain defendants from having contact with a victim as a condition of sentence. In some cases, courts imposed restraining orders which lasted longer than the length of the suspended sentence; meaning the order could last for years after the defendant had completed all other conditions of sentence.
In State v. Granath, our State Supreme Court resolved this issue; deciding that district and municipal courts do not have the power to impose restraining orders that last longer than the length of the suspended sentence. Instead, the length of the order is explicitly tied to the length of the suspended sentence and must terminate when the suspended sentence is completed.
Special rules apply to vacating misdemeanor offenses. One in particular states that the applicant must be free of most restraining orders for five years. Another rule states that domestic violence defendants must wait five years after having completed all conditions of their suspended sentence. As a result of the Granath decision, people with domestic violence conviction won't have to wait additional years to vacate waiting for a restraining order to expire. Instead, completion of a suspended sentence will result in the expiration of the order and will expedite the time the client needs to wait to become eligible to vacate.
The laws for vacating criminal offenses can be complicated. If you have questions about a domestic violence conviction and whether you qualify to vacate your conviction record, please call us (206) 395-5257 and we can get to work for you.