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How court-issued Hope cards can help domestic violence victims

April 19, 2023

By Bill Raftery

State courts issue protective orders daily to help prevent domestic violence. Over the last 10 years, the Hope card program has expanded into several states to make identification of such orders clearer and confirmation by law enforcement easier to ascertain.

Hope card programs first appeared at a statewide level in April 2010 in Montana. The program came out of efforts in tribal areas to allow for quick and easy confirmation of protection orders as part of the Purple Feather Model program. These wallet-size cards provide law enforcement concise information regarding a protection order, including the dates of issuance and expiration of the order, information about the issuing court, information about the protected parties, and identifying characteristics of the person against whom the protection order has been issued. That way, precious time is not wasted while law enforcement tries to track down the paperwork. Victims with orders are also less burdened with stacks of paperwork and can more easily carry and access proof of the protection order.

Since starting in Montana, the program has expanded to several states including Indiana and Idaho. Statewide Hope card programs were enacted in Illinois and Oregon in 2021 and Virginia in 2022 while reports indicate that some courts have already initiated their own smaller versions of the program.

In 2023, New York and Washington have pending legislation to create Hope card programs. Earlier efforts to enact these programs as a statewide option can be seen in California (AB 573 and AB 2681 in 2019-2020), Hawaii (bills filed in 2014, 2015, 2018, 2020, and 2021), Washington (2006 study committee), and South Dakota (2012).

Among the questions raised in these bills and other efforts is who would administer the program - the courts/state judiciary or an entity within the executive branch such as the state attorney general. For example, Virginia’s 2022 law provides that the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia is to develop the program and all district courts and circuit courts are to implement it. Illinois’ statute reads similarly. On the other hand, Oregon placed this responsibility within the state’s Attorney General/Department of Justice.

Does your court have a HOPE card program? Share your experiences with us. For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.