Victims of domestic violence have a new and potentially easier way of serving orders of protection against their alleged abusers thanks to an updated system.
On Thursday, the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission; the Arizona Supreme Court; the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family; and the Arizona Department of Public Safety introduced the state’s new online Order of Protection system.
According to a release, the Arizona Protective Order Initiation and Notification Tool — AZPOINT — was established to increase public safety by enhancing access and efficiency for the Order of Protection and Injunctions Against Harassment process for the public, law enforcement and the judicial system.
AZPOINT is available at www.azpoint.azcourts.gov.
“Domestic violence is a tragic problem that harms individuals, families, and communities,” Chief Justice Robert Brutinel stated. “Providing victims of domestic violence the assistance they need in the most efficient manner was the legislature’s goal in adopting House Bill 2249. Implementing this bill has required months of planning, programming, and training thousands of law enforcement and court professionals.”
According to officials, the new AZPOINT system allows victims of domestic violence to prepare protective order petition documents online and then visit any court in Arizona to complete the process, file documents, and establish a safety plan before leaving the courthouse.
People who do not have internet access or who are uncomfortable with technology are still able to complete and file paper documents with the courts.
Before 2020, a person who petitioned for an order had to arrange service on the defendant. That meant after a person went to court and obtained an order of protection, that person would work with law enforcement on when to serve the order.
But with AZPOINT, if a judge grants an order of protection, the system will determine which law enforcement agency is the best to serve the documents, and it will be up to the agency to serve the documents to a defendant.
To help with the process, the plaintiff provides a bevy of information on themselves and the defendant by using AZPOINT. This includes addresses for home and work, driver’s license numbers, phone numbers, as well as physical characteristics — hair, eyes, tattoos, etc.
“Under the new system, the defendant will now be served by law enforcement, making the process safer, more convenient, and faster,” Mr. Brutinel stated.
According to the ACJC, courts issued over 42,000 orders of protection and injunctions against harassment each year under Arizona’s old system. However, only about 50% were actually being served. Also, the agency said it was taking up to 13 days to serve an order and nearly 10 days for the order to be entered into the National Crime Information Center to be enforceable.
The ACJC attributed the delays to a number of issues, including an outdated statute, an existing statewide system that was paper-based, along with the plaintiff being responsible for initiating the service of the orders. Officials said that latter point sometimes ends with people changing their minds about the orders or never finding the defendant.
That could leave victims in a volatile situation, the agency stated.
“The first role of government is to keep our citizens safe,” ACJC Chairwoman Sheila Polk stated. “With this in mind, we worked to streamline the process using technology to obtain an Order of Protection or an Injunction Against Harassment. Overall, this new system will create a safer environment for everyone.”
In order to address the issues facing victims of domestic violence, the ACJC received a grant to perform a statewide assessment on the Protection Order/Injunction Against Harassment process. The agency hosted focus groups with over 300 court personnel, victim advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement and constables in all 15 counties. From these groups, the ACJC developed best practices and developed legislative proposals, a release states.
In 2018, the Arizona legislature passed HB 2249, which allowed partnering agencies to:
To implement an electronic Order of Protection/injunction Against Harassment system that allows petitioners to complete a petition remotely (AZPOINT);
Allowing the Court to automatically initiate service to the servicing agency;
Make the Court the holder of the Protective Order Record;
Allow for a victim notification system that can give petitioners real-time information on their case;
Keep Plaintiff address and contact information confidential by default; and
Servicing Agency has 72 hours to file an affidavit, declaration, acceptance or return of service with the court (Prior 7 days).
ACJC Executive Director Andrew LeFevre said officials hope the new system will increase the likelihood that agencies are able to find the people the orders of protection are put out against.
“The new AZPOINT system is a game-changer for Arizona’s citizens who are seeking protection from an abusive partner or harassing neighbor,” Mr. LeFevre stated. “The dedicated cross-agency team made up of state, county and local agencies, and organizations deserve a huge thank you for their two years of hard work to bring this system to life — a system that will help to save lives in Arizona.”
AZPOINT comes over a week since the death of Faith Villanueva. The 18-year-old from Surprise had been forced into a vehicle by Jafar Tigue. Both were later found shot to death. Surprise police said the two had been in a past relationship. Villanueva’s family told multiple media outlets that they had taken out an order of protection against Mr. Tigue, but abiding by it was obviously not the case for him.
On Friday, Surprise police said they do not have any updates to provide on the case. However, if someone feels they are being harassed — regardless of whether there is an injunction or court order — police encourage them to contact the Surprise Police Department or their local department to report it. As always, call 911 in an emergency.
A GoFundMe has raised over $7,000 — well past its $4,000 goal — for Villanueva’s funeral. Her mother, Sabrina Anderson, said any remaining funds will go to Eve’s Place in Youngtown. The nonprofit is a safe haven for survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse and teen dating abuse.
Its Legal Advocacy Program offers assistance to people with a variety of issues, to include orders of protection, navigating the court process and emergency custody.
The reach of Eve’s Place extends beyond the West Valley, providing mobile services in Quartzsite near the California border and in Kayenta on the Navajo Nation.
Visit www.evesplace.org or call 623-537-5380 for more information on the organization. Donate directly at www.evesplace.org/donate.