Can you drop a no contact order in Minnesota? If you asked for it in family court in the first place, it’s civil and you can drop it. But if it’s in a criminal case, you’ll need to work at it. Here’s how.
No Contact Orders in Criminal Cases
A crime with a “domestic relationship” element is a domestic crime.
In domestic crime cases, courts issue a No Contact Order. It prohibits the accused from having contact with the person claimed to be “the victim.”
They’re not consulting the person they’re calling their victim. In fact, the witness they’re casting in the victim role has no real voice in this – at least not today. He cannot “press charges.” And. she can’t directly “drop the charges.”
The current system takes the control away from her. And it gives her control to the prosecutor. It’s been that way for decades.
Your Role in the Drama Makes a Difference
If you are the accused, forget it. The judge is not going to drop the no contact order for you. No, this article is for the witness – the one forced into the role of victim of the prosecution.
If you are the witness in a domestic assault case chances are you want to drop a no contact order.
But how? The information here should help you start regaining control over your life – taking it back from the government.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You and your other were enjoying some free time together, with adult beverages. After a few drinks, some conflict and less restraint in expressing it.
Somehow, a call went to the police. The 911 call – by whomever – was recorded. Tempers flared. Police officers showed up. They picked someone to arrest, sometimes with help. In what now seems like no time, it’s over. They’re gone.
And so is your other, who is now in jail. Work was missed. Bail money. A lawyer. And – a No Contact Order.
How Long Does a Criminal No Contact Oder Last?
The pretrial No Contact Order could be in place for months. After sentencing, a judge may replace it with a probation No Contact Order, for years.
To know how to drop a no contact order, you need to understand what it is. So let’s drill down into it.
Conditions of Pretrial Release
In a criminal case, any kind of criminal case, the court can and often does set conditions of pretrial release. Or it can release the accused on their personal recognizance (meaning no conditions, just show up for court appearances.)
One condition of pretrial release the court can require is bail. And bail can be in the form of cash or a bond. In Minnesota, we have the right to pretrial release on money only bail, or unconditional bail.
In other words, we are presumed innocent before a trial. And we have the right to pretrial release without any conditions other than money-bail.
For non-felony cases there is a maximum bail. (For felony cases, there is no maximum.) The maximum bail for a non-felony case is four times the maximum fine. For a misdemeanor $1,000 is the maximum fine, so the maximum bail is $4,000. For a gross misdemeanor the maximum fine is $3,000 so maximum bail is $12,000.
Since we have the right to money-only bail, in a non-felony case the maximum bail must be without other conditions.
And, perhaps it’s no coincidence. But when judges set unconditional bail in non-felony cases, it’s equal to the maximum. That’s $4,000 in a misdemeanor cases and $12,000 in a gross misdemeanor case. That could matter, since most domestic assault cases are non-felony.
Therefore, if the defendant posts the unconditional bail, a “no contact” cannot be a condition of pretrial release.
“Well, we can’t have that.”
Some people were not happy with that. So, several years ago Minnesota adopted a statute authorizing courts to issue a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order. That name is so long that we often use the acronym, D.A.N.C.O.
The earlier Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act’s Order for Protection law was the model. The OFP is from a civil case heard in family court but with criminal penalties for violations.
They got you covered, either way
Bottom line, a defendant can now post unconditional bail, with no pretrial release conditions, but still be subject to a DANCO. Minnesota Statutes §629.75, Subdivision 1 (b), says in part:
“A domestic abuse no contact order is independent of any condition of pretrial release or probation imposed on the defendant. A domestic abuse no contact order may be issued in addition to a similar restriction imposed as a condition of pretrial release or probation.”
Perhaps a court will strike down the law as unconstitutional one day. But that is beyond the scope of this article. And this is about what courts are doing now in Minnesota.
Two layers of no contact orders
It’s important to understand that in a criminal case there could be two no contact orders: one as a condition of pretrial release, the other as a DANCO. The distinction is clear when we look at the remedy for a violation of each.
If a condition of pretrial release is violated, the court’s remedy is to issue an arrest warrant, jail, and revisit the issue of pretrial release in a new bail hearing.
But a prosecutor can charge a DANCO violation as a new, additional crime. The DANCO violation crime will have a different date of alleged offense (compared to the original criminal charge). There could be an arrest, jail, a bail hearing, on that new charge of violation of a DANCO. (The same act could be both a violation of a condition of pretrial release; and a criminal violation of a DANCO.)
As a result, when it comes to the No Contact condition, the defendant gets no benefit from the higher, unconditional bail.
Do courts ever drop a No Contact Order?
Yes, sometimes, but they make it difficult.
The reality is that the witness has no real voice unless they work hard and persevere. To drop a no contact order, it helps if she knows how to go about it. It also helps to have a witness lawyer helping make sure that he or she will be heard.
Domestic violence cases, perhaps like many things, vary along a continuum. A few are horrific; but the vast majority are not. Just ask any police officer what the most common 911 response call is – “a domestic.”
In how many of these cases is alcohol a factor? Almost all. The majority do not involve any physical harm or injury or minimal like a slap, bruise or scratch.
The harm caused by the criminal prosecution in response is typically massive and disproportionate. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
Are You Afraid of Him?
The number one question when you go to court will be: “are you afraid of her?” Hearsay written in the police reports will be reviewed, over and over. People are not always the best historians when they are angry and drinking. (But discussing the events of the night in question is often not a good idea. So discuss with your lawyer before doing so.)
“when you go to court?”
Yes, you as the witness, were never asked. And now they’ve placed the burden squarely on your shoulders to go to court. You will plead with the prosecutor, then the judge to drop a no contact order. It’s your only chance. (The prosecutor or their “advocate” may discourage you from coming to court to ask the No Contact Order be dropped. If you don’t come, it won’t get dropped.)
Prosecutors have “victim advocates.” Leaving aside the manipulative “victim” labeling, are they really advocates? A rare few are.
But most see themselves as the prosecution advocate, whose job it is to control and manipulate “their” victim to serve the state. The few good ones actually listen. The best will even fight for the witness’s position and truly advocate for it. Which type will you get? Luck of the draw.
Your Rights under Minnesota’s Victim’s Right Act
Minnesota has a Victim’s Rights Act, Minnesota Chapter 611A. One might think that prosecutors claiming to represent “victims” interests would use and cite this law often. I’ve almost never heard it happen. But I have cited it in most of my domestic assault defense cases, and every time I’ve represented a witness. Why?
Because the law says that prosecutors and courts are must listen to the “victim” and allow them a voice. But many don’t seem to want to hear it. Many prosecutors just want to use the witness for their purposes. Prosecutors often disregard the effect on witness’s real lives. The prosecutor discards the witness after use, without thought or care.
A Lawyer Can Help You Drop a No Contact Order
It helps for the witness to have a lawyer experienced in domestic violence cases. Your lawyer should know the courtroom, the players, and how to make sure your voice is heard. We will not be ignored. And we will make your voice heard.
More can be written. More could be said. Hopefully this brief discussion has been useful for you.
It’s stressful to call police for help, only to have them take over your life. They and their lawyers turn into an enemy that threatens to ruin you and your family. But there are countermeasures. You can assert your power. Don’t let them have it. You can fight back, and regain control over your life.
If you have questions, consider calling a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer experienced in domestic crime defense.
Thomas C. Gallagher is a Minnesota domestic violence defense lawyer with decades of experience with domestic assault and other domestic crime cases and Minnesota restraining orders. He regularly represents the accused to successful outcomes; and sometimes is retained as a witness lawyer.