A somewhat common outcome in a domestic violence assault case is for the defendant to enter into what is known as a Stipulated Order of Continuance (SOC). In a SOC, the defendant enters into a contractual agreement with the state or city government that is prosecuting the case. If the defendant follows his/her end of the bargain, the state or city will move to dismiss the case at the end of the period of the agreement. The benefit of this alternative is that at the end of the period of deferral if all conditions have been met, the case is dismissed. The drawbacks are the expenditures of time and money necessary to complete the conditions, the almost automatic finding of guilt if the conditions are not met and other less tangible downsides as well. Though each court has its own way of administering SOCs, there are some very common requirements and themes regardless of the jurisdiction of the case.
1. Domestic Violence and Batterer’s Treatment.
All SOCs will require the individual to undergo some form of treatment. As a general rule, successful completion of a SOC will require participation in and completion of a state-approved domestic violence or batterer’s treatment program. In some cases, depending on the court, the prosecutor and the wishes of the victim, the type, and scope of the treatment program can be negotiated. This means that, if agreed upon, the SOC could be fulfilled by completing a less stringent anger management program. Or possibly alcohol counseling. Usually, the state and the court will require batterer’s treatment before it will agree to a SOC. But that is not always the case. Be sure to review all of your counseling options before entering into a SOC.
2. Alcohol Evaluation and recommended treatment follow-up.
This category deserves special mention because it could potentially be ordered in one of three ways to assure compliance with the SOC. The first is that a domestic violence treatment facility could require that the individual undergo alcohol treatment as part of-of or even prior to entry in the batterer’s program. It also could be required separately by the court or prosecutor as part of the SOC agreement. Finally, it could be agreed upon in lieu of batterer’s treatment. Regardless, anyone seriously considering entry into a SOC should obtain an alcohol evaluation first in order to best know what will be expected should the SOC be sought.
3. Imposition of a No Contact Order (NCO).
Some but not all courts/prosecutors will require that an order prohibiting contact with the victim be put in place as a condition of the SOC. Others will want an NCO in place until a certain amount of counseling has been completed. Still, others don’t make an NCO part of the SOC at all. This is truly taken on a case by case and jurisdiction by jurisdiction basis. The important thing to remember here is that if no contact is made part of the agreement, violation of the order would have two-fold consequences. The first is that the violation could cause the SOC to be revoked which would result, most likely, in an automatic finding of guilt on the underlying DV charge. The second is that it would constitute a whole crime called Violation of a No Contact Order. If entering into a SOC, always try to negotiate the NCO out of the agreement or at a bare minimum, set up as part of the SOC a timeline in which the NCO can be removed. This will help protect yourself and your SOC as you move forward.
Probation is simply the court’s way of monitoring an individual’s compliance progress with the SOC conditions. Some courts do this by setting up administrative review dates whereby the file is reviewed. If compliance is found, no action is taken. If there is evidence of non-compliance, a more formal review hearing is set. Other courts use a probation department to monitor compliance. In these courts, the defendant will very likely have to meet or have communication with, on a semi-regular basis, a probation officer. Every probation department and probation officer is different. Try to learn as much about how your SOC will be overseen. The difference between a laissez-faire court administrative review process and a highly active and interested probation officer I extreme. Know not only what will be expected of you but who is expecting it before agreeing to a SOC.
5. Stipulation to police report upon revocation.
The court sets up guarantees that if an individual fails to comply with the agreed terms of a SOC, that the process of obtaining a conviction is swift and certain. To that end, in order to be accepted into a SOC, the defendant must agree to the admissibility of the police report should the SOC be revoked as well as the sufficiency of the evidence contained therein to support a conviction. This means that if a person is revoked from a Stipulated Order of Continuance, the court has been authorized ahead of time to simply review the report and that all parties agree that report should support a conviction. Translated: those that fail to comply with the terms of the SOC are almost always found guilty of the DV charge.
There are a variety of other less affirmative conditions that the court will impose as part of the SOC. The person will be ordered to pay certain court costs, assessments and probation fees. There will be a prohibition on committing any new criminal law violations, and possession of weapons will be prohibited, among some other things. There really is no limit to the kinds of things the parties can agree upon as part of a SOC. If truly considering this alternative you and you lawyer owe it to you to find a creative solution that gives you the best chance of success while at the same time, minimizing any risk exposure.
To learn more about the Stipulated Order of Continuance in domestic violence cases, contact a Washington domestic violence lawyer at Milios Defense for an initial consultation.