DANCO Violation - What You Need to Know
Violating a DANCO is almost always as serious of an offense as the underlying domestic assault charge. Throughout my career, I have handled Domestic Assault cases, in which a DANCO proved to be a major pitfall for many of my clients. In all of the pretrial Domestic Assault cases and most of the probationary Domestic Assualt cases there was an active Domestic Abuse No Contact Order. Minn. Stat. §629.75, a court order prohibiting the defendant from having contact with the alleged victim and, almost invariably this includes, any children who live in the home. This order is frequently issued without any input from the alleged victim and sometimes over their objection. The DANCO remains in place while the charges are pending and continues to remain in place if the defendant is placed on probation. Only the judge can lift a DANCO. The alleged victim cannot “lift” the DANCO even if she or the children want to have contact with the Defendant.
Attorney Experience Defending Domestic Assault and DANCO
For the past several years, I was the attorney assigned to the Stearns County Domestic Violence Court, a specialty court designed to handle the cases of felony level, repeat domestic assault defendants. The Court required extensive pretrial and probationary supervision conditions. There was an assigned probation agent to supervise the participants, as well as a surveillance agent who could visit the participants at any time of the day to ensure that they remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol, avoid contact with the alleged victim, and accurately report their whereabouts. In addition, there was a victim assistance coordinator assigned to the Court. Part of the coordinator's job was to listen to the recorded jail phone calls to ensure that participants were not contacting the alleged victims.
Why am I telling you this? Because...
Violating a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order Is a Serious Offense
As I already mentioned and it is worth repeating, a DANCO violation is almost always as serious of an offense as the underlying charge! There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, where the defendant is charged with Domestic Assault by Strangulation (which is always a felony) and he has only one prior or two prior “qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions.” In this case, the DANCO violation would be either a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charge.
3 Things to Know About a DANCO Violation
First, they are invariably easier to prove than the underlying domestic assault charge. This is NOT good news for the violator / defendant:
- Most alleged domestic assaults occur in the privacy of one’s home. Most cases don’t have independent third party witnesses and many don’t have visible signs of injury. Cases without witnesses or signs of injury are the quintessential example of a “he said – she said” case. These cases are imminently triable and often result in either an acquittal or a plea to a lesser charge such as disorderly conduct, which unlike “domestic violence-related convictions,” is not enhanceable.
- DANCO violations are frequently much easier to prove than the above mentioned alleged domestic assault cases. Proving the violation is often as easy as listening to a recorded phone call from the jail, viewing a text message, looking at a cell phone call log, or finding the two parties together.
- On too many occasions to count, I have had clients charged in domestic assault cases that were winnable and triable, but who were ultimately convicted of one or more DANCO violations. Frequently, the underlying domestic assault charge was even dismissed. These clients went from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. And there was little I could do to help them, other than negotiate some sort of settlement.
- By the way, when you are told at the jail that the phone calls are being monitored, they are telling the truth!!!
Second, each instance of contact can be charged separately.
- If the defendant has contact in violation of a DANCO ten days in a row, he could be charged with ten separate DANCO violations. Depending on the circumstances, these could be ten felony charges. Clients in this situation can find themselves initially looking at minimal jail time or probation but consequently facing a lengthy jail or prison sentence. All simply for having contact with someone who may even want that contact.
Third, DANCO violations are subject to manipulation by the alleged victim.
- I have seen too many situations to count where the alleged victim tells her significant other that the DANCO has been lifted, or that she has applied to have the DANCO lifted, or that she won’t tell anyone that they are having contact. This level of cooperation frequently disappears when her significant other “has one too many,” speaks inappropriately to her, or she catches him texting some other woman or looking at pornography on the internet. This places an incredible amount of power in the hands of the alleged victim and sadly many prosecutors don’t exercise their discretion to reject charging out such cases where the alleged victim is using the DANCO as both a sword and a shield.
What to Do After a Violation
You may find yourself asking “What do I do in this situation?” Here are some tips:
- First, you need an attorney to represent you!
- Your attorney can help attempt to get the DANCO modified. He can contact the alleged victim to inquire if she wants contact with the you; an attorney can point her in the direction of a local agency that can help her complete a “safety plan;” and an attorney can contact the court on your behalf to request a modification of the DANCO to allow limited contact with her or your children or even for a cancellation of the DANCO.
- Second, DO NOT VIOLATE the DANCO!
- Throughout my career, I have represented clients who cannot contact their significant other or children. I know how difficult this can be and I know that it only adds additional stress to an already stressful situation. I am incredibly sympathetic to this as a father of two wonderful children. But it is far better to be patient than it is to ignore and potentially violate the DANCO and find yourself serving a lengthy jail or prison sentence.
- Remember a DANCO violation is far easier to prove than the underlying domestic assault charge and it carries serious, long lasting repercussions!
If You Have Questions, Do Not Hesitate to Contact Me
I am here to assist you, if you find yourself in need of a criminal defense attorney to defend a domestic assault no contact order.
I offer a free half-hour consultation to address outstanding Domestic Assault Charges, DANCO violations, or a request to modify a DANCO. I can be reached at 763-425-6330.
About J. Matthew Holson - Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
Known for aggressively defending the rights of people charged with crimes of all types, Matthew has been fighting MN criminal cases since 2004 including DWI, traffic violations, assault, and other misdemeanor and felony charges. He has dedicated his entire career to helping people navigate the court system backed by a deep understanding of Minnesota laws as well as criminal justice, which allows him to help fight for defendant's rights, reduce charges when possible, or get charges dismissed. Read more about Matthew [here]
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