Understanding The "50-B" Domestic Violence Protective Order Process

11:24 PM, Sep 9, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, N.C. - Laurrissa Armstrong went before two judges asking for a protective order. Both denied her request. She died Saturday from gunshot wounds. Police say her estranged husband shot her in the parking lot of her apartment complex, August 29.

WFMY News 2 has reached out to those judges to ask for more details, but we're still waiting to hear back.

It's just 14 pieces of paper, but a 50-B Domestic Violence Protective Order could save a person's life. The document can make a victim feel more secure, but he or she must fill out the paperwork properly or a judge won't sign off on it.

"When they go in front of the judge, the judge doesn't have very much information. It's basically what is put in that order," Sonya Desai, Family Service of the Piedmont Adult Victim Advocate, said.

In many counties, getting a 50-B involves meeting with an advocate, filling out paperwork, driving to the courthouse and talking to a judge and a clerk.

Victim advocates can help make sense of the process and the form.

"When women come in, and they're filling out the forms, they are distraught. A lot of time, their bruises are fresh," Desai said.

Lynn Rousseau, Family Abuse Services Alamance County Executive Director, said, "If you forget to check a box saying that you don't want that person to have contact with you, it's useless. A law enforcement officer can only go by what's on that form."

Alamance County has a pilot program in place right now that allows victims to complete all the forms electronically and get a judge to sign off via live video chat. The process takes a few hours, not all day. However, even with this technology, the content of the form remains most important.

"There has to be a finding of fact of domestic violence. It has to be recent. So, if a victim comes in there and says she's scared, but she can't explain to the judge why she's scared, that judge is not able to sign that order as much as he or she might like to," Rousseau said.

If you are going to fill out one of these forms, ask for help. It's free. There is no room for error here.

Before the pilot program went into effect, as many as one third of all the women who went to Family Abuse Services of Alamance County did not file the paperwork at the courthouse. Now, Rousseau says most women complete the entire process.

Anyone can speak to a victim advocate to get help filling out the forms. There are limits about what they can tell you because they cannot give you legal advice.

Find the victims' advocacy group closest to you.

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