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Restraining orders - glorified pieces of paper or powerful protections?

By By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Advocates at the YWCA in Utica who work with victims of domestic violence say at one time, orders of protection were worth little more than the paper on which they were printed.

In recent years, though, they say the orders have grown more teeth, because punishments for violating them have become stiffer.

"It's a felony if you violate an order of protection and cause some physical harm or you break something in the house or you call someone on the phone a million times, those are all felonies," says Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Dawn Catera Lupi.

There are different types of orders. The "stay away order" is self explanatory: the person named in the order can't go anywhere near the person who requested it or contact them in any way.

One glaring and painful failure of what's known as a "stay away order" is the case of Kristin Palumbo Longo. Palumbo Longo was stabbed to death by her husband, Utica Police Officer Joseph Longo, in the couple's Deerfield home in September. The "refrain from" order states that Longo could be around her, even live with her, as long as he didn't harass or harm her in any way.

So far in 2009, 825 orders of protection have been generated through Utica City Court. The number of active ones is closer to 450, as some are temporary ones that became permanent.

One hundred sixty nine people were cited for criminal contempt in 2009 for violating such orders.

Lupi says it's no longer uncommon for a person to go to jail or even serve prison time for violating orders of protection.

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