House Bill 309 (HB 309) makes several important changes to Ohio protection order laws and brings Ohio law into compliance with the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). HB 309 became law on September 17, 2014. As a result, Ohio no longer faces the possible loss of more than $8 million per year in federal VAWA funding. These changes to Ohio law should also benefit many victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, or juvenile violence who seek protection orders from Ohio courts. Notably, these changes apply to all types of protection orders, including but not limited to, domestic violence civil protection orders, civil stalking protection orders, civil sexually oriented offense protection orders, juvenile protection orders, criminal protection orders and temporary protection orders.
Specifically, HB 309 prohibits any court, sheriff’s office, or other state or local unit of government from charging a victim who files for a protection order any fee, cost or deposit in connection with the modification, enforcement, dismissal, or withdrawal of a protection order or consent agreement. In addition, the new law prohibits any court, sheriff’s office, or other unit of state or local government from charging a victim who files a petition or motion for a protection order any fee, cost or deposit in connection with the filing, issuance, registration, modification, enforcement, dismissal, withdrawal or service of a witness subpoena. Existing law already prohibited courts or other governmental units from charging any fees, costs or deposits in connection with the filing or service of protection orders or related petitions and motions, but victims were sometimes charged fees or costs when they dismissed their protection order case, when the judge or magistrate terminated their case, or when they used subpoenas to bring witnesses into court to testify in their court cases. HB 309 closes those gaps in the fee prohibition statutes.
On the other hand, courts and other units of state or local government may now charge the respondent or defendant (alleged abuser or stalker) fees, costs or deposits in protection order cases, regardless of whether the court issues the requested protection order or approves a consent agreement between the parties. Previously, the courts were prohibited from charging certain fees or costs to any party in a protection order proceeding, but under the new law courts will have the discretion to charge or not charge such fees or costs to the respondent or defendant.
There is another significant change that applies to all Ohio court proceedings, not just protection order cases. HB 309 prohibits the taxation of interpreter’s fees as costs to be paid by a party if the party to be taxed is indigent. This provision protects the due process rights of Limited English Proficient (LEP) parties in the Ohio justice system.
The Family Violence Prevention Center Advisory Council of the Ohio Department of Public Safety and its members—including but not limited to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN), the Ohio Supreme Court, the Action Ohio Coalition for Battered Women, and the Ohio Poverty Law Center—played a key role in drafting and advocating for the passage of HB 309.
Anyone with questions regarding HB 309 should feel free to contact attorney Mike Smalz of the Ohio Poverty Law Center at phone number 614-221-7201 or at email@example.com.