AG Urges Legislature to Pass Comprehensive Update to Domestic Violence Laws
AG Coakley and Speaker DeLeo Filed Legislation That Creates New Criminal Offenses, Boosts Prevention Efforts
BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley today issued the following statement urging the Legislature to pass comprehensive domestic violence legislation:
“Domestic violence still impacts far too many families and too many victims feel that they have no place to go. This bill will empower victims by giving them the support they need and strengthens our laws against abusers. I urge the Legislature to pass this important bill to help prevent these tragic crimes.”
On April 1, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and AG Coakley announced a comprehensive domestic violence bill which creates new criminal offenses, boosts prevention efforts and seeks to empower victims.
The legislation enacted today 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 bill gives law enforcement officials, attorneys, and judges updated resources to help balance prevention and punishment. 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 domestic violence was a predicate or concurrent factor to the crime.
The bill includes the following provisions:
- Establishes employment leave for victims of abuse;
- Authorizes an offender to be held up to six hours after arrest on any domestic violence charge for a victim to safety plan;
- Establishes fees for domestic violence offenses which are deposited in the newly created Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance fund;
- 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 promotes innovative approaches such as multi-disciplinary high risk teams and a grant program to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence.
This bill was reported out by a House and Senate conference committee last night. It will be voted on today by both branches.