The best way to maximize your chances of success at a VPO hearing is to hire an attorney. Some people decide to go through with a VPO hearing without the assistance of counsel. That is a risky move because the other side may have an attorney helping them. An attorney knows the rules of evidence and the most effective ways of questioning witnesses and presenting evidence. Important issues may be overlooked if one tries to go through with a VPO hearing without an attorney.
After you hire an attorney, you will need to help your attorney as much as possible. This involves giving witness information and evidence to your attorney. Witnesses are anybody who saw the abuse, your injuries, the stalking, or the harassment. This can include friends, family members, children, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, or even strangers. Try to take note of people who were around during the incident(s) so you can get their information to your attorney.
Gather evidence to help prove your case. Your testimony will be evidence. Remember that you must testify truthfully because lying while under oath is a crime. Other evidence can include police reports, pictures of injuries, pictures of a disturbed household after a domestic violence incident, 911 call audio, a certified copy of the abuser’s criminal record, screenshots, audio recordings of telephone calls, and anything else that you can use to convince the judge that you are in need of a protective order.
Your chances of success increase with the amount of evidence you have. However, evidence other than your testimony is not required. The judge will still listen to you despite your having no other witnesses or evidence. Remember that to win, your evidence must outweigh the other side’s evidence. If the only evidence presented is the testimony of the parties, then your testimony must be more credible than that of the opposing side for you to win.
Write down the details of the events of stalking, abuse, or harassment as soon as possible after the event happens. This will help in telling your story to the judge. I prepare questions to ask my clients on direct examination and go over them with my client prior to the hearing. Having the events written down in a client’s own words ahead of time helps me prepare those questions and ensure that nothing critical is left out.
Remember to be specific when telling your story. Vague descriptions will not be helpful. Try to describe specifically what was done, when it was done, where on your body a battery occurred, and how many times the incident(s) happened.
There are some other things that you should consider including in the evidence you produce to the judge. Bring up the most recent incident(s) of violence and the worst incident(s) of violence. Let the judge know if the defendant has guns or other weapons. Let the judge know about any threats by the defendant to kill or physically hurt you.
What Can I Do If Someone Files For a VPO On Me?
Having a VPO filed on you can be an unnerving experience. The amount of evidence required to get approval for an emergency VPO is very low. Therefore, it’s very easy to tarnish someone’s reputation when very little may have occurred.
A VPO is very public. It will appear on OSCN as soon as it’s filed. Anyone in the world can look up your name on OSCN and see that someone is claiming that you have either abused, stalked, or harassed somebody. It is difficult to get that information removed once it’s on there.
The most important thing to do when you are served with a VPO is to obey the VPO! Violating a VPO is a crime. Next, contact an attorney. It is certainly your right to “go it alone” in a VPO hearing, but the stakes are high. It’s not worth your reputation to save a few bucks. The same reasons a petitioner should hire an attorney also apply to the defendant. However, it is even more important that a defendant get an attorney for a VPO hearing. If a petitioner loses a VPO a hearing, it’s no big deal. If a defendant loses a VPO hearing, the VPO will be in effect, and many unpleasant things will happen.
Help your attorney by gathering evidence. It will be the same type of evidence the petitioner will have to produce. You will need evidence and witnesses to help prove that you did not commit the acts described in the petition. Maybe there is evidence showing that the petitioner is lying or has a motive to make these accusations. All that will need to be brought out in court. If there is a witness that you need to testify on your behalf in court, your attorney could issue a subpoena, which commands their appearance.
Come to court prepared. Bring your evidence and witnesses. The other side will need an opportunity to review any evidence you present to court prior to the hearing. Look over the petitioner’s evidence before he or she presents it in court. Make sure your witnesses know why they are there and what you are going to ask them. They must tell the truth, so impress upon them that they are not to make things up. Dress nice. Looking clean-cut and nicely-dressed goes a long way. The judge will be evaluating every aspect of how you present yourself.
Let your attorney do the talking. Don’t attempt to talk to the petitioner in the courthouse before the hearing if you have retained counsel. Your attorney can talk to the petitioner. If petitioner is represented by counsel, then your attorney will talk to that attorney. They may be able to work out something before the hearing. Sometimes, deals are made that could involve the emergency order terminating after a short period of time or terminating after a party takes certain actions. It’s even possible to negotiate a dismissal of the petition that day.
For more information on Preparing For A VPO Hearing in Oklahoma, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (405) 633-3420 today.