cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense

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"Antique Valentine 1909 01" by Chordboard - Self, from material in copier's possession. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antique_Valentine_1909_01.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Antique_Valentine_1909_01.jpg

If the protected party in a no-contact order calls me, is it okay for me to go over now? 


By David Cmelik


Denzel's character, the elder statesman engineer, advises Chris Pine's character, the conductor, to call Pine’s estranged wife in the run up to a possible train wreck that could end their lives. Pine hesitates, telling Washington that the lead-up to the events of the day included a confrontation with a police officer, display of a firearm, and a restraining order. This was all just backstory for the action in the movie which includes aerial views of a speeding train and epic crashes with debris on the track. But closing the distance on the runaway train takes time for the two men to get acquainted. Producers and writers have creative license to create to create a back story and generate flaws in their heroic characters—to give them depth. For example, Wedding Crashers, a comedy, created imperfect characters who impersonated wounded veterans to get dates. The producers, writers, and even the actors took some heat from vets’ groups that felt they were making light of fraudulent presentation of awards—a criminal act and a deeply, morally wrong offense. In other movies, characters have done far worse. So this is not an indictment of a movie I generally liked. But Unstoppable is an instructive vehicle (no pun intended) for the way no-contact orders work in Iowa and misconceptions about whether it's okay to meet up with someone previously protected by a no-contact order. So is it okay?  Here’s the punchline: it’s not allowed. Even if the protected party picks up the phone and calls the defendant first. Let me say that again. It is not legal to pick up the phone and call a protected party even if he or she reaches out first. It's not even a good idea to pick up the phone and answer it if the protected party calls the defendant. Now, some would say, "can't he/she get in trouble for that" if the protected party runs hot then cold, so to speak, on whether it's okay to be in contact? Technically, the State has the authority to prosecute a protected party for their part in violating a no-contact order. But that doesn't help the defendant and the State has the discretion to refrain from prosecution, choosing instead to chalk it up to the "cycle of abuse." Violating a no-contact order can result in a fine and a jail sentence. Competing, applicable statutes make the specific penalty a bit unclear but defendants should assume that the minimum seven-day jail sentence is required--and a fine up to $500. Each call or visit can be prosecuted as a separate offense (in criminal cases) or litigated by the protected party (in civil no contact cases).


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