US State Laws Increase Protection and Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence
Friday, September 07, 2007 2:03 PM

Shielding the Location of Domestic Violence Victims

Missouri and New Mexico recently passed laws providing greater protection for domestic violence victims. Governor Matt Blunt (R) of Missouri signed legislation in July that shields the identities of domestic violence victims in public records. The new law also gives victims the option to have information sent to the Secretary of States office and then forwarded to their home in order to further protect their location. In New Mexico, similar legislation was signed by Governor Bill Richardson (D) allowing domestic violence victims to receive mail at a substitute address.

Domestic Violence Leave

New legislation took effect July 1st in Florida requiring Florida employers with at least 50 employees to give victims of domestic violence, their family members and members of their household up to three days of paid or unpaid leave in order to seek legal help, counseling, medical care, or provide time for court proceedings. The employer still has the right to require the employees to use their vacation time, personal time and sick leave before using their domestic violence leave.

In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) signed a law requiring employers with at least six employees to give unpaid leave to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking if needed to secure their homes, seek help from law enforcement or receive counseling.

Protection for Pets

This past year, Connecticut, Maine and Tennessee addressed the intersection of family violence and animal abuse within new legislation. Tennessee recently expanded their definition of domestic violence to include threats and injuries towards pets. Connecticut and Maine have also extended protective orders for pets whose owners are victims of domestic violence.

Penalty Enhancements

In Connecticut, a bill was signed imposing more stringent penalties for those arrested for family violence and for intentionally violating terms of their release. The bill also established new procedures for law enforcement that intervene in family violence cases.

Governor Sarah Palin (R) of Alaska signed a law demanding tougher sentences for crimes committed on the grounds of a domestic violence shelter in an attempt to secure the safety of victims within shelters.

In Maine, Governor John Baldacci (D) signed an act to protect families and enhance public safety by making domestic violence a crime. This act redefines domestic violence assault, domestic violence criminal threatening, domestic violence terrorizing, domestic violence stalking and domestic violence reckless conduct as class D crimes making them punishable up to one year in prison. The act goes on to state that these crimes can become class D crimes if committed more than once by the same person or by someone who has been served with a protection order in the past three years.

Strangulation

This summer Connecticut created three new crimes of strangulation. The new crimes are classified by the severity of the injuries caused by the strangulation. In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist (R) signed legislation to categorize domestic violence battery by strangulation as a third-degree felony.

Compiled from:  "State Legislation," NewsFlash, Family Violence Prevention Fund, http://www.endabuse.org/newsflash/index.php3?Search=Article&NewsFlashID=909, 28 August 2007.