This party started in a public bar in Silt, CO in early January. When we wrote about it on January 9, it was looking like the Congresswoman was the perp and her ex husband the victim of the mele. But almost immediately afterward, the tables turned. The Congresswoman secured a temporary stay away order under Colorado’s Protection from  Abuse law and Jayson Boebert was arrested for disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.

It’s been a wild ride for the past two months and recently Mr. Boebert has failed to appear in court for his hearing. The media is reporting that the former couple is trying to work things out; always a good thing when minor kids are involved. But how did this case develop so many twists? Therein lies a story which can happen to almost any of us.

The typical protection from abuse proceeding begins with a 9-1-1 call to the local constabulary. The 9-1-1 center receives a call where there is lots of shouting and threats usually involving two married people. The police are dispatched and candidly, they have little idea what they will encounter. Some couples compose themselves and tell the cops it was a big mistake. Others are still wielding guns or knives when the cops get to the door. The standard procedure is to separate the antagonists and one cop is assigned to “manage” each combatant and hear them out. Based upon those interviews and the visible evidence (e.g. weapons, bruises, blood) and their assessment of the veracity of the stories related, the cops make a judgment. If all seems calm, they will recommend that the couple spend the night apart (e.g., hotel, friend’s house) and leave written information about how to file an action under the Protection from Abuse law. Because these incidents happen more commonly on nights and weekends when courts are closed, the cops  often transport the perceived victim to a local district court magistrate to request a temporary order barring abusive contact and requiring the perceived perpetrator to leave the home pending a full hearing. And, today, if there is solid evidence of an assault, they will likely arrest the person they believe was the aggressor.

The arrest changes everything because we now have a criminal proceeding. A physical assault in Pennsylvania is a crime and tagged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the severity of the harm threatened or inflicted. As such it creates a “record” which can be seen on the Pa. Judicial Portal.  A protection from abuse claim is a civil proceeding that can result in a civil order restricting contact or directing a part to leave the residence for up to three years. Those dockets are often not available to the public.

People charged with an assault based crime need to be careful. This can affect your job, your ability to coach Little League, to possess a weapon and lots of other things which might be important to you. It may also affect your access to your children, especially in settings where the kids were around to see the conflict play out. Even if charges are not brought, if you violate the terms of the Protection from Abuse order, the consequence is a charge of criminal contempt.

Sometimes the cops charge the wrong guy or gal. Recall that at first Lauren Boebert was perceived to be the aggressor. But then the charges were laid on Jayson. Understand that the cops who are summoned to the altercation don’t get to “roll tape” on what started the mayhem culminating in the police call. Historically, it was assumed that a domestic call involved a guy out of control, but women are catching up fast in the physical aggression department in recent years. Then there is the “mouth off to the cop” factor. He or she who tries to boss the cops around while they are investigating what happened is three lengths ahead in the race to be arrested. There is some basis for this reasoning. If you are prepared to yell at or threaten men and women in uniform equipped with guns and badges after someone in your house asked them to pop in for a visit, chances are you may have started the mele. One of the charges against Jayson Boebert is for obstructing a peace officer.

If you are served with an arrest warrant or a protection order, you should consult a lawyer even though we all know that you were the innocent victim here. As Joe Friday told you in every episode of Dragnet: “Anything you say can be used against you in criminal proceedings.” And realize that if you testify in the civil protection from abuse trial, a transcript of your song can be used to charge you with a crime even after the trial of the civil abuse case. Lots of times the abuse order stops or limits conduct with your kids and that can be both alarming and disheartening. But you really need someone with professional training to navigate this system. In this part of the world (i.e., Pennsylvania) these kinds of cases are fast paced and the demands for hearing times produce high speed rather than deliberative trials. If your emotions triumph over your objectivity bad things can happen quickly and the tracks you lay are not easily taken back up.