As St. Joseph Magistrate Judge Andre Gammage grants, modifies or dismisses protection orders in court, his administrative assistants Erica Burns and Emilie Thompson huddle around the computer and input the information into the Indiana Protection Order Registry.
Law enforcement agencies in all 92 Indiana counties immediately will have the order available. Police and sheriffs will be able to see who has a protection order or no-contact order against them.
Counties initially could decide whether they wanted to connect to the database but it was an “easy sell,” according to Mary DePrez, director and counsel for Trial Court Technology in the Office of Judicial Administration. In 2009, connecting to the registry became a requirement after the Indiana General Assembly passed SEA 345, which required the database to be expanded statewide.
Prior to the registry, the process was paper-driven. Court orders were copied and sent to law enforcement offices where the documents were often kept in a file. The registry put the information online so officers can pull the order from their laptops in the field.
In addition, the registry can interface with the Indiana Data and Communications System. Orders that contain specific identifiers about the respondent, such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers, can be input into IDACS, which makes the information available to law enforcement across the country through the National Crime Information Center and the International Justice and Public Safety Network.
The database also has a public access portal where citizens can find basic information such as the respondent’s name, address and whether the order has been served.
Although details about the petitioner are public and could be found in the court file, DePrez noted the online registry is prohibited from posting any of the victim’s information.
In 2010, the registry was enhanced so that victims can be sent a text or email whenever the respondent has been served or the general order is set to expire. Victim notifications sent from the registry total 196,697.
Currently the number of registry users is 13,919, which includes courts, clerks, law enforcement, Indiana Department of Child Services and prosecutors. The number of orders submitted through the registry since 2006 is 857,975.
The launch of the registry coincided with an increase in protective orders. Statewide petitions for protective orders rose 12.2 percent from 2006 to 2015, with filings reaching 32,886 last year. In St. Joseph County, which has a specially designated protective order court, 967 protection orders were filed between Jan. 1 and Dec. 15 of this year.•