The Family Justice Center recently made it a lot easier for victims of domestic violence and other crimes to file a protective order against their assailants. Victims can initiate and complete the process to obtain an emergency order from the same location, the Family Justice Center in Greensboro and Family Service of the Piedmont’s Slane Center in High Point.
The new program launched in August and was developed by the NC Administrative Office of the Courts or NCAOC. This Electronic Protective Order System means that the process for filing temporary protective orders is now automated.
“The most significant benefit of e-filing is enhanced safety for the victims of domestic violence,” said Chief District Court Judge Wendy Enochs. “Now a victim can go to one place, fill out a complaint, appear before a judge and have the Order delivered to the Sheriff’s Department for service. Before e-filing, a victim had to go to three different locations to accomplish these tasks.”
Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of services to victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse is at the core of the Family Justice Center’s mission and vision. The center, which opened in June, works with partner agencies throughout the community to provided coordinated and streamlined services in a single location.
“The collaborative work happening in Guilford County made this community a great choice for NCAOC to pilot the Electronic Protective Order System,” said Catherine Johnson, Director of the Family Justice Center. “Guilford County is only the second County in the state offering this program and we are grateful for the leadership from our Chief District Court Judge and community partners, who championed the need for this program here in Guilford County.”
When a victim is filing for an order of protection, he or she meets with an advocate from Family Service of the Piedmont who inputs their completed order into the electronic system. Then the courts use video conferencing technology to swear in the victim, certify the order and set a hearing date with a the click of a button. The presiding Judge can also hold the hearing via video conferencing.
Throughout the process the victim remains at the same location where the order is filed. From the clerk, to the judge, to the Sheriff’s Office and back to the victim, the order is signed and processed electronically. In addition, once the defendant is served by the Sheriff’s Office, the victim is notified via email or text message.
“This is how technology is supposed to work, enhancing the overall safety of our community,” said Sheriff BJ Barnes. “Electronic filing allows more officers access to the 50B protective order and it increases timely service on the defendant. We want to get the defendant served as soon as possible.”
Residents are already taking advantage of the service and reportedly feel more supported as a result.
“The feedback from victims benefitting from this program has only highlighted its significance, as many have repeatedly stated that this new process is easier, more supportive, and a critical contributor toward establishing safety,” said Johnson.
Tom Campbell, CEO of Family Service of the Piedmont, couldn’t be more pleased with the new initiative.
“We are always willing to do whatever it takes to support the victim,” explained Campbell. “There is so much paperwork involved with obtaining a protective order and a lot of preparation time for all parties involved. With this new technology, the orders are online and the victim and their family are in a safe, comfortable waiting room until the Judge is ready to have a hearing.”
Last year 1,420 protective orders were filed in Guilford County.
“The new system is safer, less time-consuming and easier for everyone,” Campbell said.
The Guilford County Family Justice Center is located at 201 S. Greene St., Greensboro, NC and Family Service of the Piedmont’s Slane Center is located at 1401 Long St., High Point, NC. Both centers are open for walk-ins Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. While assistance and support to victims is provided throughout the day, all protective orders must be submitted by 12:30 pm in order to be heard by the presiding Judge that same day.