CT Domestic Violence Laws
Protecting survivors. Holding offenders accountable.
Connecticut has a variety of laws that seek to provide both civil and criminal court-based protections for survivors, as well as access to a number of critical supports and services. CCADV leads on creating and implementing these laws to ensure that our state has a strong response to domestic violence that protects survivors and holds offenders accountable.
There are a number of constitutionally-protected rights that victims of crime have when involved in the court process. Federal law also requires law enforcement to provide qualified interpreters at the scene of an incident. In addition to the rights of all crime victims, survivors of domestic violence have the right to have all statements made to domestic violence counselors kept confidential and to have your address kept confidential. Connecticut has a Victim Compensation Program run by the CT Judicial Branch Office of Victim Services for which you, your children, or other family members may be eligible. Victims can also register with Connecticut Statewide Automated Victim Information + Notification (CT SAVIN) for notifications related to criminal cases, probation violations, appeals, incarceration status, or criminal or civil court orders.
Below are some of Connecticut’s laws related to domestic violence (Please note that “C.G.S.” stands for CT General Statutes, which are the laws of the State of Connecticut). Laws in Connecticut use both the term “domestic violence” and “family violence.” There are differences in the definitions of what constitutes domestic or family violence under criminal law, civil/family law, and other laws related to accessing support and services.
This is not an exhaustive list of all Connecticut laws offering possible protections for survivors.
If you have a question about your situation and how Connecticut law may pertain, be sure to contact Safe Connect to speak with an advocate. While our advocates cannot offer legal advice, both Safe Connect and our 18 member organizations can help you identify relevant laws, guide you through court processes, and make referrals for legal representation.
Family Violence Prevention & Response - C.G.S. § 46b-38a
Connecticut’s Family Violence Prevention & Response statute provides the legal definitions for Connecticut’s criminal protections for survivors. While Connecticut does not have a specific charge for domestic violence, any crime can become an act of family violence when that crime is committed against a “family or household member.” C.G.S. § 46b-38a includes these key definitions related specifically to criminal law:
“Family violence”: An incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, including, but not limited to, stalking or a pattern of threatening, between family or household members. Verbal abuse or argument does not constitute family violence unless there is present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur.
“Family or household member”: Any of the following persons, regardless of the age of such person:
(A) Spouses or former spouses;
(B) parents or their children;
(C) persons related by blood or marriage;
(D) persons other than those persons described in subparagraph (C) of this subdivision presently residing together or who have resided together;
(E) persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they are or have been married or have lived together at any time; and,
(F) persons in, or who have recently been in, a dating relationship.
“Dominant aggressor”: The person who poses the most serious ongoing threat in a situation involving the suspected commission of a family violence crime.
Family Violence Arrests, Dominant Aggressor, Statewide Model Law Enforcement Policy on Family Violence - C.G.S. § 46b-38b
Connecticut has a mandatory arrest law for family violence that includes a dominant aggressor provision directing law enforcement to arrest only the dominant aggressor and avoid dual arrests (arrests of both the offender and victim when complaints are made by both) whenever possible. It is not up to the victim whether or not the person who harmed them will be arrested - if police have information that a family violence crime has been committed, they are required by law to arrest the person suspected of that crime. Police cannot threaten or suggest the arrest of all persons involved in a reported family violence incident for the purpose of discouraging future requests for police intervention.
To determine which party is the dominant aggressor, police consider the following:
- The need to protect victims of domestic violence;
- whether one person acted in defense of self or a third person;
- the relative degree of any injury;
- any threats creating fear of physical injury; and,
- any history of family violence between such persons, if such history can reasonably be obtained.
It is the policy of the State of Connecticut that our family violence arrest law discourages when appropriate, but does not prohibit dual arrests. If a police officer believes probable cause exists for the arrest of two or more persons, they may submit a report to a state’s attorney for further review and advice.
Connecticut also has a statewide model policy on the police response to family violence. This policy provides the minimum standards to which all police departments must adhere to comply with Connecticut law. It helps to support a strong, consistent response to family violence across all police departments.
Penal Code/Criminal Offenses
Connecticut does not have a charge of “family violence.” Instead, various criminal offenses (also referred to as “penal code offenses”) may constitute a family violence crime if they occur between individuals that meet the definition of family or household member. Many Connecticut criminal offenses include different degrees of the crime intended to indicate severity that carry different levels of penalties. Some common examples of criminal offenses seen in family violence incidents include:
- Breach of Peace - C.G.S. § 53a-180aa through C.G.S. § 53a-181
Generally, when, with intent to cause inconvenience or annoyance, a person engages in fighting, assaults someone, threatens someone, etc.
- Disorderly Conduct - C.G.S. § 53a-182
Generally, when, with intent to cause inconvenience or annoyance, a person engages in fighting, interferes with another in an offensive or disorderly way, makes unreasonable noise, etc.
- Assault - C.G.S. § 53a-59 through C.G.S. § 53a-61a
Generally, a crime that causes or was intended to cause physical injury to another person.
- Threatening - C.G.S. § 53a-61aa through C.G.S. § 53a-62
Generally, threats of committing a crime of violence that terrorizes another person.
- Stalking - C.G.S. § 53a-181c through C.G.S. § 53a-181f
Generally, a course of conduct in which someone follows, monitors, or surveils a person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress.
- Strangulation - C.G.S. § 53a-64aa through C.G.S. § 53a-64cc
Generally, when a person impedes or restricts another person’s breathing or blood circulation.
- Sexual Assault - C.G.S. § 53a-70 through C.G.S. § 53a-73a
Generally, any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the victim’s consent.
- Violations of Conditions of Release & Court Orders - C.G.S. § 53a-222 through C.G.S. § 53a-223c Generally, when a person violates either conditions of release imposed by police following an arrest or an order of the court, such as a criminal protective order or a civil restraining order.
Criminal Protective Order - CGS § 46b-38c
Criminal protective orders are orders that a judge puts in place to protect a victim after an arrest has been made. These orders can restrict the offender from doing certain things, such as committing further acts of violence or abuse, or returning to the home of the victim. Victims can express their opinion about what restrictions they want in the final order, but ultimately it is the sole decision of the judge as to what restrictions will be included in the final order. Criminal protective orders typically last the length of the criminal case through nolle, dismissal, or conviction.
Family Court Laws
Definition of Domestic Violence in Family Relations Matters - C.G.S. § 46b-1
The definition of domestic violence used specifically for family relations matters - civil restraining orders, divorce, custody - within Connecticut Superior Court includes physical violence, stalking, threatening, and coercive control. Coercive control is defined as a “pattern of behavior that in purpose or effect unreasonably interferes with a person's free will and personal liberty.” It explicitly includes, but is not limited to, unreasonably engaging in acts such as isolation, deprivation of basic necessities, controlling the victim’s movements, communications, finances, etc., committing or threatening cruelty to animals, and more. Click the link above for the complete legal definition. This definition does not apply to criminal law.
Civil Restraining Order - C.G.S. § 46b-15
Civil restraining orders are court orders for which survivors of domestic violence can apply to receive from family court and do not require reporting the abuse to law enforcement. The applicant must meet the definition of family or household member in C.G.S. § 46b-38a (listed above) and the abuse must meet the definition of domestic violence included in C.G.S. § 46b-1 (explained above). Civil restraining orders can last up to one year with an option for extension; may, if requested, require the abuser to continue paying for household expenses, such as rent, for up to 120 days; and, require that the abuser surrender their firearms.
Early Lease Termination - C.G.S. § 47a-11e
Victims have the right to terminate their lease early and without penalty if they reasonably believe that it is necessary to vacate the dwelling due to fear of imminent harm to themselves or their children. Victims must give 30 days notice to their landlord and satisfy certain requirements to prove they are a victim of family violence.
Lock Change - C.G.S. § 47a-7b
When a survivor is a named protected party under a criminal protective or civil restraining order with certain specified “stay away” conditions, they may request that their landlord change the locks on their apartment. The landlord must then change the locks or permit the tenant/survivor to change the locks. The cost of the lock change is the responsibility of the tenant/survivor, but may be reimbursed through the state’s Victim Compensation Program.
Safe Leave - C.G.S. § 31-51ss
In Connecticut, employers with 3 or more employees must allow workers experiencing family violence to take up to 12 days off in a calendar year for certain issues resulting from the violence, such as the victim needing to seek medical care or attend a related court hearing. The leave is not required to be paid, but victims can apply to be compensated for needed Safe Leave through Connecticut’s Paid Family Medical Leave Act.
Protected Class & Reasonable Leave - Public Act 22-82
Beginning October 1, 2022, domestic violence will be a protected class in Connecticut related to employment, housing, credit transactions, and public accommodations. This means that employers, landlords, banks, etc. cannot discriminate against a person because they are a victim of domestic violence. Employers also cannot deny victims reasonable leave of absences to address issues related to domestic violence similar to what is covered under Safe Leave.
Address Confidentiality - C.G.S. § 54-240a
Victims of family violence or sexual assault have the right to keep their address confidential by using Connecticut’s Address Confidentiality Program offered through the Office of the Secretary of the State. This program provides victims with a substitute mailing address so that their home address can be kept private. Victims must apply with the assistance of a certified domestic violence or sexual assault counselor.
Victim Privacy After An Arrest - C.G.S. § 1-210
Under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act exemptions, arrest records in Connecticut cannot reveal the name or address of a victim of family violence. This information must be redacted before police reports are released to the public, media or appear in a police blotter.