Brandy Dallas had an order of protection against her estranged husband, but it appears it didn’t do her any good.
In July, Justin Dallas was arrested after allegedly holding her against her will. He was charged with unlawful imprisonment, second-degree menacing, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child. A judge issued a temporary order of protection, ordering Dallas to stay away from Brandy Dallas.
But he didn’t heed the order.
According to the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, Dallas’s estranged husband, Justin Dallas, 26, went to the home where she was staying at 915 Second St. in the village of Liverpool, owned by Samantha Rainwater, 30, on Monday, Oct. 28. Deputies say he then argued with his wife and stabbed both Brandy Dallas and Rainwater multiple times. A third woman in the home, who has not been identified, received superficial wounds, as well as minor injuries when Dallas pushed her down the stairs. Dallas was apprehended by Liverpool Village Police and Onondaga County Sheriff’s Deputies. He has been charged with murder in the first degree, two counts of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. He pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
So what good is an order of protection? Is it worth any more than the paper it’s printed on?
“Obviously, it’s a piece of paper. It doesn’t prevent someone from doing something awful,” said Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Cali, who heads up the Special Victims Bureau at the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office. “It does make otherwise lawful things unlawful. Any other time, going and knocking on someone’s door is lawful. But when there’s an order of protection in place, it enables us to arrest someone on a criminal contempt charge. It also escalates criminal behavior. If someone punches someone and the injury is not severe enough to warrant an assault charge, without an order of protection, it’s a simple harassment charge, which isn’t even a misdemeanor. It’s a violation. With an order of protection, it’s a felony.”
There are several cases in which an order of protection, known more colloquially as a restraining order, can be issued. A Supreme Court order of protection can be issued as part of an ongoing divorce proceeding. The judge adjudicating the divorce proceeding will rule on a motion filed by either the plaintiff, defendant or the attorney representing either side as to whether the order should be issued and what terms and conditions should be included.
A Family Court order of protection is issued as part of a civil proceeding to stop violence within a family or an intimate relationship, as well as to provide protection for those individuals affected. In order to obtain such an order, the applicant’s, also known as the petitioner’s, relationship to the other person (also known as the respondent) must fall into one of the following categories:
Current or former spouse
Someone with whom you have a child in common
A family member to whom you are related by blood or marriage
Someone with whom you have or have had an “intimate relationship.” An intimate relationship does not have to be a sexual relationship. A relationship may be considered intimate depending on factors such as how often you see each other or how long you have known each other. Ultimately, the court will determine whether the relationship qualifies.
Finally, as in the Dallas case, a criminal court order of protection is issued as a condition of a defendant’s release and/or bail. A criminal court order of protection may only be issued against a person who has been charged with a crime.
“An order of protection is issued any time there’s an assault, a domestic violence case. We ask for it and it’s issued at arraignment,” Cali said. “In a criminal case, an order of protection issued between the judge and the defendant. In family court, it’s between the plaintiff and the defendant, so it’s Mr. Smith versus Mrs. Smith, but in criminal court, it’s the People of the State of New York vs. the defendant. So we ask for it and the judge issues it, sometimes even when the victim doesn’t want it.”
An order of protection can do a number of things, depending on the conditions of the order. It can include, but is not limited to, directing the subject to:
Stay away from you and your children
Move out of your home
Follow custody orders
Pay child support
Not have a gun
Not contact you
Again, it all depends on what the judge includes in the order. What it does most of all is prevent the subject from harassing the person the order is meant to protect. In cases of domestic violence, that’s imperative.
“In domestic violence cases, it’s common to see things escalate,” Cali said. “It starts with violence in the home — things get broken in the home, so you have a criminal mischief charge. Things progress to the individual putting hands on their spouse. And it escalates further. The order of protection enables us to charge higher level crimes more quickly, so we can put people in jail for criminal contempt. It does prevent worse things from happening more often.”
Clearly, there are times when bad things happen anyway. But Cali said most people do adhere to the orders.
“It’s easy to measure when they fail. It’s a lot harder to measure the successes,” he said. “We don’t know how much violence they prevent. But a lot of people hear an order from a judge and do it.”
What’s important to note is that those cases like the Dallas case are the exceptions rather than the rule, and orders of protection are a useful tool that aid both victims and law enforcement.
“Everybody recognizes an order of protection doesn’t stop a killer from killing someone, and it doesn’t stop someone who wants to seriously injure someone from seriously injuring someone,” Cali said. “But it is a tool that can be effective in charging people with crimes and felony-level offenses, and we wouldn’t be able to do that if it wasn’t for the orders.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.