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How to obtain court documents when I am a victim of domestic violence?

I have 2 questions: 1. How...

I have 2 questions:

1. How can I obtain court documents when I was a victim of domestic violence?

2. How can I release the protective order?
This is in Pierce County, WA but I live in California.

My father is the defendant.

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Answered in 3 minutes by:
12/10/2016
Zoey, JD
Zoey, JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 29,163
Experience: Active member of the NYS bar since 1989
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Hi,
Are you talking about a civil or a criminal protective order?

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Customer reply replied 1 year ago

The case is closed and I think there was a plea bargain.

Whats the difference of civil and criminal in a domestic violence case?

He didn't steal anything tangible. He just physically assaulted me.
I was trying to look it up online in Pierce County Superior Court Washington. State v. Terrence Loren Johnson.
I haven't seen or talked to him since that night 2 years ago February.

In a criminal case, the defendant is charged with a crime and either has to fight the case or take a plea. The protective order is issued while the case is still ongoing and for a time thereafter to be determined by a judge if the defendant is convicted by trial or by plea.

You mentioned the defendant taking a plea. That would make it a criminal case. You can also tell it's criminal by the name of the case. The fact that the state is the complainant tells you it's criminal.

In a civil matter, you would just file with the civil court for a protective order. There would be no arrest. You would get a temporary order and then you and the defendant would have to show up before a judge to have a hearing to determine whether the temporary order became permanent.

Now that I know it's criminal, I'll get to the rest of the questions.

Unfortunately, not all documents in a criminal case are public records. Only the defendant and his lawyer can get copies of all the court papers in the file. But you would not be able to look at or copy police reports, orders of protection, probation's sentencing report or other sensitive documents along those lines.

As the complainant, you would have to make a request for them from the DA's Office. The DA represented your interests in the case and would be able to tell you how long the judged ordered the protective order to extend beyond the date of the conviction. Otherwise, if you needed documents from the file for litigation, your lawyer could obtain them via a court order.

If you wanted to lift or modify the order, you'd have to do it through the DA's office since the case doesn't belong to you any more. It belongs to the DA. He could bring the matter before the judge and get the order lifted if it has not already expired.

Just checking in to see if you need more help or any clarification of my answer. If so, please reply here on this question thread.

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Customer reply replied 1 year ago

I would like to file a motion to obtain those documents please.

You are not a party to that case and can't file a motion to obtain them. You can ask the DA for them, and he may or may not give you them. Or, if you are in litigation where the contents of the file are both relevant and necessary for your suit, you can get your judge sign a subpoena for them. Otherwise, you are not entitled to them.

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Customer reply replied 1 year ago

I am not in litigation with the defendant. Although I would like your professional advice on appropriate protocol. Can you advise me on the most effective, professional, and efficient way to ask for the documents. Would I call? Hire an attorney? Would I write a letter? An email? Do I contact the admin office first?

I've given you the protocol. What you want is not a matter of public record. You are simply not entitled to the information unless you need them for purposes of litigation that you are involved in. Otherwise, since you were the complainant in the case, you can call the prosecutor who handled the case on your behalf and simply ask for them. You could also call the police now that the case is closed and see if they will give you the police report.

They don't have to share the defendant's file with you, but they may choose to give you something at their discretion. If they turn you down you would have to make a request through the Freedom of Information Act. Here's a sample letter to get you what you are looking for through FOIA. What's confidential will be edited out so that you will not be able to read it, but you do have the ability to get the documents through FOIA.

There's no protocol and no magic formula. You're asking for a favor from the prosecutor. Just do so respectfully and if you have a good reason for it, present it to him.

In short, tell him you were the complainant on the case and you are interested in seeing some reports in the defendant's case file and why. Then ask if there's some way you can get copies of documents in the file.

Zoey, JD
Zoey, JD, Attorney
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Satisfied Customers: 29,163
Experience: Active member of the NYS bar since 1989
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