Collateral consequences: Stay away orders that are forever

WESTBOROUGH, MA  Protective orders are devised to keep victims of domestic violence safe and are valid and useful judicial tools to arrest perpetrators of DV who violate them. Some orders are vacated automatically if the facts of the case do not warrant the renewing of an order or if the victims does not wish to continue the protective order.  In the extreme, protective orders are put in place that do not expire because the perpetrator has exhibited such high risk behavior and the facts of the case bear out the necessity of such an order for the safety of victims.  These orders are not handed out without compelling evidence of repeated violent and coercive behavior toward victims and are subject to rigorous judicial and legal scrutiny.

Perpetrator wants 2001 order vacated

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that Kevin Caruso must submit “clear and convincing evidence” that he no longer poses a danger to former girlfriend in a case dating back to 2001.  The Supreme Judicial Court  in Massachusetts has required that Mr. Caruso provide proof that “he has ‘moved on’ from his history of domestic abuse and retaliation”.  Merely being in a new marriage is not sufficient to prove that he is no longer a threat to the former girlfriend.  In fact, it is well known that men move from one abusive relationship to another inflicting fear and terror with every passing day. In most cases, red flags litter the wake of repeated domestic violence with violent behavior including choking, threats with firearms, social media stalking, and other forms of sadistic, coercive control.  In this case, Mr. Caruso has been stopped from working with children because a permanent “stay away” protective order appears in his CORI – criminal record.  It has been an inconvenience because he is now prevented from owning firearms and has been subjected to searches when he pass through airports.  In the written opinion, SJC Justice Ralph W. Gants states “the only relevant issue is the safety of the plaintiff – not the passage of time” as published in the Boston Globe (3-14-2014).  The SJC called the frustration felt by Mr. Caruso the “collateral consequence” of the permanent restraining order put in place initially issued as a result of his threats to kill his former girlfriend.  According to Justice Gants, “the impact on the life of the alleged abuser is not a critical issue for the judges” and ultimately he must show “clear and convincing evidence that it is no longer equitable for the order to continue.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has taken an important position in this decision to help protect victims of DV with the most egregious case histories.  Accordingly, distance alone and a new relationships are not conclusive documentation of “moving on” and as a result do not reduce the risk to victims.  In the decision the SJC rightfully protects the safety of the most vulnerable by requiring “persuasive evidence that the conduct of the abuser has had a significant change of circumstances” that results in the reduction of risk to the victim or victims.  Perhaps this is the first step toward a national data base of domestic violence offenders similar to the sexual abuse registry.  Substantive decisions about bail or no bail holds will be more reliable by having access to the violent history of domestic violence offenders and the protective orders that have been issued time and time again.

2 thoughts on “Collateral consequences: Stay away orders that are forever

  1. In the Caruso case, the Court is proactive, sensing the burden is on the offender rather than the victim; thus, the responsibility for proof that Mr. Caruso has “let it go”, poses no danger to the victim and has done the necessary therapy to own his behaviour and to figure strategies to change rests precisely on the shoulders of the offender where the burden should remain always.

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