VINE stands for Victim Information and Notification Everyday. It is an online electronic notification and database system that lets crime victims access information about offenders’ custody status 24 hours a day. It also supplies information on some criminal cases. It alerts the victim when the offender is to be released.

The VINE system allows victims of crimes to register and be automatically notified by telephone or email whenever the offender’s status or release date changes. The victim’s information is kept confidential, and the offender will not know the identity of any individual who registers with the service.

Previously, concerned victims would have to obtain such information either in person at the court or through a complex mail or phone process. The current availability of the VINE System varies by state and jurisdiction; some states have multiple registries, while in some states, access can be somewhat restricted.

What Is the Purpose of the VINE System?

The purpose of the VINE System is to prepare victims and other concerned individuals for an inmate’s release. This can be extremely helpful in cases where the victim’s physical safety may be an issue after the offender is released. While the victim will not be able to prevent the inmate’s release using the VINE System, the victim will at least be put on notice so that they are prepared.

What Information Do I Need to Access the VINE System?

The VINE system is free to use, though availability may vary by state.

To access the VINE System, you would need the following information:

  • The offender’s full name (including their middle name or middle initial- inmates may have similar names)
  • Any aliases or nicknames that the offender may have used
  • The case number for the criminal charges
  • Location of the court where the charges were imposed
  • Offender’s social security number
  • Former addresses of the inmate
  • Date of birth
  • Location of the jail or prison where the inmate is being held

Understandably, you may not have all of this information. Do your best to be as accurate as possible to identify the person in question properly. You may also wish to prepare a brief explanation of why you wish to be registered with the VINE system. The system can help provide you with extra protection against danger or harassment.

More information can be obtained at the VINE website.

What Is a Restraining Order?

Restraining orders (which may also be known as “protective orders”) are orders issued by a court to protect individuals, businesses, or the general public from harm in situations where there is an allegation of domestic violence, stalking, or harassment, assault, or sexual assault.

The restraining orders give the court the authority to order a person to stay a certain distance away from another home, person, group of people (such as all of the other family members in a domestic violence situation), or business. The restraining order might include a “no contact” provision, ordering the person to refrain from making contact via phone, email, letter, delivery, etc.

Are There Different Types of Restraining Orders?

There are several different types of restraining orders that a court might use:

  • Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): This is a restraining order in effect until the court can hold a hearing to review the facts surrounding the need for the order. A TRO will usually have a set expiration date or last until the court hearing. At the hearing, the court will decide if there is a need for a long-term restraining order and how long it should last.
  • Emergency Protective Order (EPO): An emergency protective order is a restraining order issued by the police after responding to a domestic violence case scene. An EPO is effective immediately and usually lasts no longer than a week. In that time, the individual can file for a long-term order.
  • Permanent Restraining Order (PRO): Permanent restraining orders are put into effect after a finalized court case will last for years, if not forever.
  • Domestic Violence Restraining Order: These are ordered explicitly after a domestic violence case. These orders can last for years, or in some cases, for the abuser’s lifetime. The order can protect children, other family members, roommates, or the domestic violence victim’s current romantic partners.
  • Dependent Adult or Elder Abuse Order: Some adults might be at risk of abuse because of age or mental or physical incapacity. A restraining order can be obtained on their behalf to protect them against potential abusers.

How Long Do Restraining Orders Last?

How long a restraining order lasts depends on the type of order and the case’s specific facts. Restraining orders that are issued before the court can review the facts will only last for a few days or weeks. Typically, the order will not expire until the court has a hearing.

The court will hear from both sides at the hearing and decide whether a permanent restraining order is necessary and appropriate. A permanent order may not expire for years.

Some states limit how long a restraining order can last but allow the court to issue a longer order depending on the circumstances. For example, a domestic violence restraining order can only last for two years in Texas.

However, the court can issue an order for longer if certain facts exist. For example, the abuser caused bodily injury or committed a felony against the victim or another family member or household. Either party can also ask the court for a hearing to modify, extend, or remove a restraining order.

How are Restraining Orders Enforced?

It is essential to always have a copy of your restraining order with you. Everyone protected by the order should have copies of the order. A copy should be kept safe and on file with your local police department.

If the restraining order is violated, the first step is to call the police. When the police arrive, show the restraining order. It is a crime to disobey any court order, and the police can arrest the abuser for violating the order.

There will be a court hearing to determine whether the order was violated and what the punishment will be. The court may impose civil or criminal penalties.

Violating a restraining order to protect a business or building may result in civil penalties, like a monetary fine. Violating a restraining order that protects a person or people from violence, stalking, or harassment can lead to civil or criminal penalties. The abuser may also face additional criminal charges if they committed a crime and violated the restraining order.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

Registration with the VINE System may be useful for your situation, but you may wish to contact a criminal lawyer for further advice on what to do once the offender has been released. If you need to obtain a restraining order or temporary injunction, a lawyer can help you file these documents with the court.

However, you should be aware that if you file for a restraining order or a similar court order, the offender will usually be notified of this and may obtain your personal information, such as your address. A court can sometimes issue restraining orders with special instructions prohibiting the release of your data. Consult with a lawyer to determine the safest and most appropriate course of action for your particular circumstances.