State ex rel. Williams v. Marsh
626 S.W.2d 223 (1982)

  • Denise and Edward were having marital problems. She moved out and took their child with her.
  • Denise applied for a restraining order, testifying that Edward had beaten her and sent her to the hospital.
  • The Trial Court rejected the request, claiming sua sponte that the Statute for restraining orders (Adult Abuse Act §§455.010-.085) was unconstitutional.
    • The Trial Court found that the Adult Abuse Act was a violation against the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment because it allowed for the courts to exclude someone from their home and contact with their children without prior notice or hearing.
      • The Adult Abuse Act permitted ex parte orders of protection when there was an immediate and present danger to the petitioner (aka apprehension of immediate physical injury). These were granted solely on the testimony of the petitioner and without any notice to the defendant.
        • In this case, it was impossible to notify Edward because no one could find him.
        • These are temporary orders that only last for 15 days.
    • The Court found that the Adult Abuse Act was also unconstitutional because it allowed for a warrantless arrest of a person inside their own home.
    • Oddly, the Trial Court also found that the Adult Abuse Act was incorrectly titled because it also applied to abuse of children. Therefore it was unconstitutional.
  • The Missouri Supreme Court reversed.
    • The Missouri Supreme Court agreed that due process requires notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to deprivation of a protected interest.
      • However, the rule is not applicable to temporary takings, such as in this case.
    • The Court found that there is a three part balancing test to determine what due process is required:
      • The private interest affected (in this case a property interest in one’s home and custody of one’s children).
      • The governmental interest (in this case prevention of domestic violence and the protection of citizens).
      • The fairness and reliability of the existing pre-termination procedures and the probable value of any additional safeguards.
    • The Court found that, when the balancing test was applied, the Adult Abuse Act meets constitutional standards for due process.
      • The Court noted that it is only a temporary order, so the defendant’s rights are only being affected for a short time.
    • The Court found that if the defendant is in his home in violation of the restraining order, there is probable cause that a crime is being committed, allowing police to enter the property without a warrant.
  • In a dissent, it was argued that the Adult Abuse Act was not constitutional because it allowed judges to find someone guilty of a crime without due process, and other the word of the spouse.
    • How do you define “apprehension of physical injury?” It is too open ended and subject to the judge’s discretion.
  • This was the first case that found a domestic violence Statute to be constitutional.