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Minnesota Court Orders for Protection can Interrupt Domestic Violence

Americans are overwhelmed by stranger-on-stranger gun violence like the recent mass shootings in a Colorado theater and a Connecticut grade school. Sometimes, though, shooting crimes are smaller in scale, but just as deadly. Unfortunately, the spiral of domestic violence between spouses, romantic partners or other family members also ends in death.

In October 2012, in the quiet Twin Cities suburb of Cottage Grove, a young husband with a history of terrorizing his wife shot her in a sandwich shop and then turned the gun on himself. According to, Tensia Richard was planning to divorce him at the time of the shooting. Reportedly, police had previously assessed the relationship and felt she was at risk of fatal harm, but she continued the relationship. For complex reasons, it can take several attempts to leave an abusive partner before the victim is successful.

The article also details information about domestic violence in Minnesota provided by Jen Polzin with Tubman, a Minnesota nonprofit provider of services and advocacy to victims of family violence. According to Polzin, 34 victims in the state died at the hands of family members in 2011, and the Richard family scenario followed a common pattern of serious violence that occurs when the targeted partner tries to leave.

Polzin recommends that anyone in an abusive relationship should create a “safety plan” for escaping and ultimately moving on. Such plans can include locating a “safe place to go” and saving money. Detailed suggestions for safety plans are available across the Internet.

Minnesota orders for protection

A crucial legal safety tool for a victim of domestic abuse is the court order for protection from the abuser. The Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act spells out the steps to take and when an order is appropriate. Such an order in Minnesota protects victims from both the fear of domestic assault and from actual inflicted harm. The law interprets domestic abuse widely and applies to many types of intimate and family relationships, not only romantic or marital. Even people who live together or have lived together without romance or intimacy fall under this law.

The law provides that the location of the petitioning victim may be kept secret with the court from the public for his or her protection. A protective order can not only order that the abuser stay away and not contact the victim, or leave their shared residence, but also may cover related issues like restitution, financial support, child custody and visitation, counseling and treatment, insurance, pet care and protection, and more.

In circumstances of “immediate and present danger of domestic abuse” a victim can get a protective order from the court without notice to the alleged abuser and without a hearing. Otherwise a hearing with notice will normally be held. A protective order is normally for two years unless the court finds a longer time appropriate.

Within 24 hours, the court must notify the police department with jurisdiction over the victim’s home of the new order. Violation of a Minnesota order for protection is a crime that subjects the perpetrator to arrest and prosecution. Punishment is more severe when the violation involves a firearm.

The Minnesota law is lengthy and complex, and it is important to consult a family law attorney to learn about how a court order could protect you if you are in fear of or the victim of domestic violence. An experienced Minnesota lawyer can handle the associated legal requirements and procedures.

Likewise, if you are served with a petition for a protective order against you, consult a knowledgeable attorney to discuss how to respond. Sometimes the situation does not warrant a protective order and a lawyer can assist in setting the record straight.