AG Applauds House for Approving Comprehensive Update to Domestic Violence Legislation
Bill Heads to Conference Committee
BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley today issued the following statement in reaction to the House vote to approve comprehensive domestic violence legislation jointly filed last week by Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and AG Coakley:
“This bill is a critical step forward to strengthening our domestic violence laws and will give law enforcement officials, attorneys, and judges better tools to assist victims and hold offenders accountable. I want to thank Speaker DeLeo for his strong leadership and commitment to addressing domestic violence in a comprehensive way and to the House for passing this important bill. I hope that the House and Senate versions are reconciled quickly and we are able to send a strong bill to the Governor’s desk.”
On April 1, Speaker DeLeo and AG Coakley announced a comprehensive domestic violence bill which creates new criminal offenses and elevated penalties, boosts prevention efforts and seeks to empower victims.
The legislation establishes a first offense domestic assault and battery charge that will allow officials to immediately contextualize charges as domestic in nature and take appropriate punitive action. It also creates a separate and specific charge of strangulation and suffocation, actions that statistically indicate an abuser is more likely to kill a victim. The legislation also abolishes the archaic practice of allowing accord and satisfaction in domestic abuse cases. Massachusetts is the only state that currently allows this type of civil remedy over a prosecutor’s objection.
The bill puts additional tools in the hands of law enforcement, attorneys and judges so they are able to identify the signs of violence and make better recommendations and decisions about bail and sentencing. By streamlining and standardizing records, it ensures key decision-makers have the most accurate information and that parties across the jurisdictions have access to an offender’s complete history. Additionally, under this legislation judges must evaluate whether, in crimes against the person or against property, domestic violence was a predicate or concurrent factor to the crime and help assess whether an offender’s behavior is escalating in aggressiveness.
The bill includes the following provisions:
- Requires training on domestic violence for judges, assistant district attorneys, law enforcement officers, and medical professionals;
- Establishes employment leave for victims of abuse;
- Increases victim confidentiality by prohibiting information regarding domestic violence complaints from being included in daily police logs which are public record;
- Establishes fees for domestic violence offenses which are deposited in the newly created Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance fund;
- Broadens court authorization to issue limited custody and support orders;
- Requires law enforcement agencies to provide information on batterer’s intervention to defendants when serving them with a Chapter 209A restraining order.
The legislation also establishes a grant program to promote innovative approaches to ending the cycle of domestic violence and empowering victims to extract themselves from abusive relationships, such as multi-disciplinary high risk teams.