LD 1656, “An Act To Increase Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence” Has Public Hearing (Videos)
A public hearing before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety legislative committee was held this morning for LD 1656, “An Act to Increase Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence”, sponsored by Senator Emily Cain (D-Penobscot). The bill builds upon an earlier law sponsored by then-House Democratic Leader Cain requiring law enforcement officers to receive training to use evidence-based domestic violence risk assessments. That earlier law did not specify how the information obtained from the assessments could be used and LD 1656 is meant to clarify how law enforcement, judicial, and community groups share information obtained from the risk assessments in order to plan the most effective response when domestic violence occurs.
A portion of her prepared testimony:
- Today I am here to present LD 1656, An Act to Increase Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence.
As members of this committee, you know better than most that there is no quick fix, no magic wand, and no miracle cure for domestic violence.
I sure wish there was. We all wish it.
Last year, Maine police reported more than 5,500 incidents of domestic violence. State Police total numbers of homicides for 2013 are now available, and the facts are – again – scary and sad. According to the State Police, the number of homicides in 2013 totaled 24, which included one homicide committed in 2012, body discovered in 2013 and a double homicide. Of those 24 homicides, 11 or 46% were the result of domestic violence. In addition, domestic violence homicides were related to 4 additional deaths when murderers killed themselves or were killed by law enforcement.
Since you and I have been engaged in this topic and this work to end domestic violence for many years, I bet you have the same reaction I do when you watch the news and hear about yet another incident of domestic violence. You take it personally, and wonder – what else could we have done? What else can we do? This has to stop.
LD 1656 is not about a new approach to keeping victims of domestic violence safe. It does not create new policy changes. Today’s bill is about making the laws we have passed work better and as intended.
The components in this bill are all improvements to existing laws that are basically working very well. These improvements are badly needed to increase safety for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as to allow the policy, and the coordinated community response to domestic violence, to work the way the legislature intended when we passed laws in prior sessions. These are all changes to existing statute, and I have an additional amendment to the bill that has come to light in the past few weeks.
The bill builds on current law with the following elements:• A judicial ruling in the Thomas case this past fall, related to the Address Confidentiality Act, provided a new interpretation of several phrases within that act in a way that left an unintended safety loophole. This bill repairs that loophole by clarifying the protection provided to victims at high risk by keeping their home addresses confidential after they have relocated for safety.
• In 2012, we worked together on important changes to the bail code related to domestic violence. Some of the changes in bail procedures inadvertently left offenders who are now being detained in jail on the most serious domestic violence offenses and waiting for a judicial review of their bail, still able to call and terrorize their victims from the jail. This bill stops the opportunity for dangerous offenders to contact and terrorize their victims from jail before a no contact order can be put in place.
• This bill integrates previously approved statutes related to domestic violence advocacy and sexual assault privilege with new legislation created in the last legislative session: LD 1493, An Act To Revise the Laws Concerning Criminal History Record Information and Intelligence and Investigative Information Act. This aspect of the bill makes certain that information sharing between criminal justice partners and advocates can continue just as it has been done for years to ensure good risk assessment and safety planning for victims.
LD 1656 is the result of the hard work and conversations between many people, departments of state government, and organizations. The concerns about bail and advocate privilege have been discussed within the Attorney General’s office, Maine Department of Public Safety, Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse, the Maine Domestic Violence Homicide Review Panel, The Maine Coalition of Domestic Violence, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, The Wabanaki Women’s coalition and in the January CLAC meeting just last week. And the address confidentiality improvements came via the Secretary of State’s Office.
The work to end domestic violence in Maine is all-encompassing and requires all of these entities, and more, to turn that vision into a reality, and I am grateful for their help.
Senator Rebecca Millett was next to testify in support of the measure:
“LD 1656 builds upon the good work done to reduce domestic violence in Maine. It strengthens the protection of victims and empowers police officers, victims’ advocates, and prosecutors to create the best plan to keep victims and families safe.”
CJPS Committee Senate Chair, Senator Stan Gerzofsky (D-Brunswick) also rose to address his committee- a rare occurrence, but this bill which he cosponsored and issue as a whole is one that the senator feels very passionately and strongly about (clip to his full testimony here):
- “We keep working on bills, year and year, and trying to get it right. I think we’re doing it right, but I think there is room for improvement; there’s room to tie this stuff together better and to get more protection, and that’s what this bill is going to do.”
Others who spoke in support of the bill included Julia Colpitts of Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Attorney General Janet Mills, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, representatives from the Maine State Police and other advocates.
A work session for the bill will be held later in the session.