Domestic Violence Defendants Fear Losing Children Due to No Contact Orders

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By Nikki Suzani

SACRAMENTO – Fathers accused of domestic violence made their feelings about no-contact orders with their children well known—with a few expletives deleted—here at Sacramento County Superior Court.

“There’s so many black fathers out there that don’t give a f**k about their kids but I give a f**k about mine and they’re telling me that I can’t see my son,” Cliffonda McCarver said to his public defender, his voice loud enough to be picked up by both Judge Scott Tedmon and Deputy District Attorney Anissa Galata, even over Zoom live stream.

McCarver and another father didn’t take the NCOs well.

McCarver was the defendant in a case involving two counts of Penal Code section 243(e)(1), battery on an intimate partner, one count of Penal Code section 422, threat to commit crime on an immediate family member, and one count of Penal Code section 594(a), damaging or defacing personal property.

At his arraignment, which Sacramento County Assistant Public Defender Mirayla Freshwater continued to July 9 in order to give time to finish investigations, DDA Galata attempted to serve McCarver with the NCO. When handed the paperwork, McCarver at first refused to take it, then begrudgingly took it, slumping in the box.

“My son is one year old,” he said.

Similarly, later in the morning, Styles Barnette’s case of one count of Penal Code section 273.5(a), willfully inflicting corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim that is a spouse or cohabitant, met a similar end. As he was served with the NCO, he, too, argued that he should be allowed visitation.

“I want to see my children,” he said. “I’m sure she [referring to the victim] would want that.”

Both would actually be allowed to do so.

NCOs are pretty self-explanatory; the goal is to prevent contact either physically or through online media between defendants and victims. Both NCOs in these cases were requested by the victims for personal safety—any violation of the NCO, either directly or indirectly, could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

One common question defendants have is how, when the victim has custody of their children, it is possible to speak to their kids. That’s where Box 16(B) comes into play, a box that was checked on both McCarver’s and Barnette’s NCO. The box specifically asserts that visitation is allowed through a court order, typically done in family court.

However, McCarver was unsure of whether he could get this court order, arguing that “there is a possibility” he doesn’t get it. Freshwater assured him this was highly improbable.

Her assertion is backed up by courts.ca.gov, which states that although judges cannot give custody to domestic violence abusers within five years of the alleged case unless certain conditions (including 52-week batterer intervention programs) are met, judges rarely deny visitation rights to a legal parent. If there is a great concern for victim safety, visitations can also be supervised, with social workers watching the interactions at a preset location.

However, it’s very important, as the law reads, that any interactions or visitations are done under a mandated court order, and any other contact (even working with a third party to set up visitation outside of court orders) would violate the NCO.

So, in both McCarver’s and Barnette’s cases, they will still have the ability to interact with and raise their children. However, it won’t be on their terms—but the court’s.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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