I had to help a friend with a legal issue today, and it involved going to file a protective order against someone in their family.
I want to be fair and give this person his day in court, so I’ll just say that he allegedly attacked my friend’s two-year old daughter and she ended up in the intensive care unit with a severe skull fracture. My friends heard that the alleged attacker was going to be released on bail, and they wanted to prevent the person from coming near them or their children.
It sounded like a good idea, so when my friend called me from his daughter’s hospital room to ask if I could take his wife to the courthouse, I agreed. It went downhill from there.
First, she learned that there had been a bail hearing today, and no one had told them about it. If she and her husband had been there, they as victims could have requested that he remain in custody. It turns out that someone had tried to reach them, but the detective who filed the report transposed not one but two phone numbers, and therefore, they were never notified.
The judge who heard the petition and granted it was good. I’ve been in her courtroom before, and she’s tough on domestic violence. Later, we had to wait for a really long time because the office staff could not get the order to print correctly. Time was wasted.
Order in hand, we had to go to another courthouse and meet with the Sheriff’s deputies who would serve it. The thing is, they weren’t sure where he was. One system said he had been released. Another system said that he was still in custody but at the hospital. A Court Order doesn’t help much if the person doesn’t know the order exists. We just hoped they would track him down. In the mean time, my friend fears for her family.
Lastly, a victim’s advocate tried get enroll my friend into a statewide program that let’s her know what’s happening with the alleged criminal’s case. For instance, when he is released, they will receive a text letting them know. Well, as it turns out, because this was the system that showed the man as having been released on bail, there was no way to enroll my friend for future updates.
We walked out of the courthouse very frustrated. Between wrong phone numbers, non-functioning computer systems, discrepancies between state computer systems, and alleged criminals who could not be located, it was a very frustrating experience.
And if it was frustrating for me, imagine how my friend felt! I’m grateful that I have had little to no previous experience with our court system. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to needing help in the future. Isn’t that a shame? The legal system should work better than this.
Please say a prayer for my friend’s little daughter, and all the victims of domestic violence.