A no-contact order is a common condition of bond in Wisconsin criminal cases. It forbids contact of any kind between a defendant and another individual. Usually a no-contact order will apply to the alleged victim of the case, often in cases charged as one of domestic violence or abuse, but it could also be a witness or family members of an alleged victim or witness. People sometimes mistakenly refer to no-contact bail conditions as restraining orders, but-although in some instances they may have similar effects-they are legally distinct.
What No Contact Means
No-contact orders mean that a defendant cannot have contact with a specific person directly or indirectly. Direct contact means contacting that person via phone, e-mail, text message, social media, or other similar methods. Indirect contact means using a third party (such as a family member or friend) to deliver a message or communicate, leaving gifts or unsigned messages. A no-contact order means exactly what it says: no contact of any kind. Period.
A court may also order no contact except under specific circumstances or in specific locations. Some examples of situations in which we may see these type of no-contact orders include, but are not limited to, between individuals who are in the process of a divorce, live/work together, or have a child in common. General examples of these no-contact orders include phrases such as “contact limited to incidental contact only at work” or “communication limited to arranging placement exchanges”. These conditions, while possible, are not frequent, and would be specifically ordered. Most often conditions such as those listed above are the result of negotiated or argued bail modification motions, and not general conditions of bond.
But We Live Together!
One frequent question that our office gets in relation to no-contact orders involves living arrangements. A common situation is when the court imposes a no contact order between a husband and a wife who both reside in the same house. Can I go home? Where am I supposed to go? What if I want to get my things? The simple answer is this: you are not going to be able to go home for the duration of the no-contact order, or until your bond conditions are modified. This may well be extremely frustrating and inconvenient. A defense attorney may be able to help you arrange a time where you can have a third party retrieve belongings, or the police can accompany you back to your home so you can grab basic necessities in what is referred to as a “preserve the peace.” Even if the party with whom you have a no contact order says he or she wants contact with you, or has submitted a letter to the court stating that he or she does not want a no-contact order, you are still cannot have contact or return to the residence. You can only resume contact if a judge changes your bond conditions.
What Happens If I Violate a No-Contact Order?
People violate their no-contact orders. Some simply ignore them. Others think that because the other party initiated communication, the no-contact order doesn’t apply. Regardless of how the no-contact order is violated, doing so can have serious consequences. At the very least each interaction (phone call, text message, meeting, etc.) can result in one count of Bail Jumping. Depending on how your original case was charged, this could mean an additional misdemeanor or felony case. Bail Jumping charges are often difficult to defend, especially since you have signed bond conditions acknowledging you could not have contact and have had the repercussions explained to you. An additional criminal case is not the only possible negative outcome. If cash bond has been posted it can be forfeited, resulting in the loss of that money. When you pick up a second pending criminal case, you are less likely to be released without posting a larger amount of cash bail, meaning you may sit in jail. Finally, violating a no contact order weakens the negotiating position held by you or your defense attorney, and thus can result in a less favorable deal in plea negotiations.
If you are currently subject to a no-contact order and have questions about your situation, or have violated a no-contact order and want to discuss the legal repercussions, contact the Wisconsin criminal defense attorneys at Nicholson & Gansner for a free consultation.