Thursday, June 14, 2012

ARTICLE: State Assembly passes anti-domestic violence bill

The state Assembly recently passed a bill that would enhance protections for victims of domestic violence and crack down on repeat offenders, state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi said.

The Assembly’s legislation would establish the Class E felony crime of “aggravated family offense,” which ensures that defendants with a history of domestic violence who are repeatedly convicted of misdemeanor offenses can be prosecuted as felons.

This legislation also would establish a new Class A misdemeanor of “aggravated second-degree harassment” when a person causes physical injury to another person, a family member or a member of the household.

This legislation further would allow judges to consider prior violations of an order of protection when determining the defendant’s bail.

“This legislation is designed to keep offenders convicted of low-level domestic violence offenses from harassing their victims, causing them to live in fear,” said Brindisi, D-Utica, who supported the bill. “Harsher penalties including a sentence of up to four years in state prison can be imposed on repeat offenders – as opposed to the current maximum under this scenario of up to one year in a correctional facility.”

Additionally, the multi-faceted legislation will:

> Require the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence to establish a domestic violence fatality review team to examine factors involved in domestic violence deaths or near-deaths.

> Strengthen and broaden the Address Confidentiality Program, which allows victims attempting to escape from actual or threatened domestic violence to establish new mailing address with the New York Secretary of State in order to prevent abusers from finding them.

> Permit domestic violence victims to get information from their health insurance companies by alternative means or at alternative locations, and would prohibit insurers from publicly disclosing the address, phone number, or other information without the direct consent of the policyholder.

> Prohibit a person who is the subject of an order of protection associated with a dead person, or who has been charged with causing the death of the person, from having control of the disposition of the deceased’s remains.

“Domestic violence advocates are constantly striving for victim safety, offender accountability, and general deterrence,” said YWCA Mohawk Valley Director of Non-Residential Crisis Services Rosemary Vennero. “We want to create a community that will send the message to perpetrators: ‘If you’re an abuser, don’t bother living here.’ This legislation brings us one step closer to zero tolerance of domestic violence.”

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