Domestic Violence Protective Order Is Not Clear Cut

5:34 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- 2 Wants to Know is finding new information about the shooting of a woman by her estranged husband in an Adams Farm apartment complex last week. Laurrissa Armstrong had moved out of the couple's home at the end of June and started the divorce process. One month later, she filed a protective order. One month later, police say her estranged husband shot her. In light of this timeline you were asking, "How could she have been denied?"

Read: Laurissa Armstrong Court Documents

We went to the court records for answers. Not one but two different judges denied Laurrissa's request for a protective order - saying she failed to prove her case. Let's look at the complaint filed July 29, one  month before the shooting. In box 4, Laurrissa underlines she is "in fear of to inflict substantial emotional distress." She does not underline she is in fear of herself being "in imminent serious bodily injury."

She details "July7th" when her husband Bruce Ray Armstrong came to her new address and writes, "I was afraid to let him in, so talked with him through the door." It wasn't until "July 21st someone slashed my tires." She also writes he sent her "numerous texts and emails" but she doesn't say they are threatening and doesn't include the content in her complaint.

Laurrissa left box 6 unchecked. Box 6 says,"I believe there is danger of serious injury and immediate injury to me." Box 9 is checked. She says he does have a "firearm" and describes it as a" rifle."  But box 10 is unchecked. It says "defendant has used or threatened to use a deadly weapon against me" in the last section of the complaint. She does say she wants the court to give her relief since there is a  "danger of acts of domestic violence"

Paperwork is only part of the protective order process. To help us understand what happens next, Sgt. Demarr Inman is here as our expert. She says the judge has a conversation with the people involved.

Sgt. Inman says, "They will be able to go in detail with answering any additional questions that the judge might have pertaining to the complaint. The judge makes the decision based on the evidence heard whether or not to issue an Ex Parte order. There are 3 things that can happen during this time: The judge can grant the ex parte order, deny the order or dismiss it completely."

The Ex Parte order is an emergency protective order to keep away the abuser until the parties can go before a judge for a full protective order hearing.   

Sgt. Inman says she often hears from people who think that if a person feels threatened, that should be enough for a protective order. She says, "The proof of the situation/incident remains on the plaintiff seeking the order. Just saying you feel threatened would not necessarily be enough to get these orders. The plaintiff is given the opportunity to list specifics and to go in detail about the incident. Any evidence or proof that the plaintiff can show the judge does help in obtaining the orders."

A protective order, also known as a 50B, is serious. It means law enforcement can take away firearms. It means prospective employers could find it and use it when deciding on a job. So there's a lot to weigh - proof vs. protections. How do you prove their fears? Sgt. Inman says, "Any type of evidence that the plaintiff has to show they are in imminent fear or their life might be in danger helps when obtaining these orders. Some examples would be pictures, emails, text messages, witnesses and any type of interaction where law enforcement is called and/or investigating that a domestic violence crime has occurred."

Some counties have victims assistance groups that actually help people fill out the protective order paperwork. Guilford is not one them.


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