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Queens Chronicle

Assembly passes bill to protect abuse victims

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Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2010 12:00 am

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) this week announced the passage of a legislative package he supported to protect victims of domestic violence and give them the resources needed to stay safe and get their lives back on track.

A recent study found that one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime, and nearly three out of four Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. In New York State, approximately 450,000 domestic violence incidents are reported annually to police departments.

Domestic violence crimes are especially wrenching because the victim has a close, oftentimes intimate, personal relationship with the abuser, Miller said. That is why he says victims of domestic violence require special measures to protect them from the physical, emotional and financial problems caused by their abusers and to help them heal.

“Domestic violence is a devastating crime of enormous magnitude,” Miller said.“This package of legislation helps ensure the safety of victims and empowers them with the resources they need to move forward.”

The new package of bills, which will have to pass in the Senate now, would prohibit employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence or stalking committed by a member of the same family or household. The legislation also includes a right for the domestic violence victim to a reasonable accommodation from the employer of unpaid leave to deal with legal and medical issues relating to the domestic incident.

Likewise, landlords and sellers of property could not denying an individual the right to purchase, rent, lease or inhabit housing because of involvement in a domestic dispute. The bill would also require criminal or family court judges to inquire about the defendant’s or respondent’s ownership or possession of a firearm when orders of protection are sought, establish the “Address Confidentiality Program” for domestic violence victims by authorizing the secretary of state to accept service of process for victims of domestic violence and their children and allow domestic abuse victims who have an order of protection to obtain an unlisted telephone number without charge.

Additionally, it would make it illegal for an individual to possess a firearm if he or she has committed a family offense by adding “domestic violence offenses” to the list of serious offenses for which purchasing or possessing a license for a firearm, rifle or shotgun would constitute a class A misdemeanor; and expand the class of domestic violence victims who may cast special ballots — similar to absentee ballots — in elections to include non-relatives and individuals who have suffered emotional harm at the hand of an abuser.

A related piece of legislation that passed the Assembly earlier this year requires orders of protection issued in Family Court to be translated into the native language of the individuals involved. That would allow non-English speaking people and those with a hearing impairment the opportunity to better understand what was reported in court.

Other measures in the package passed would strengthen orders of protection by authorizing family courts to extend an order for victims who are afraid of recurring violence upon a showing of good cause, even if there has not been an actual recurrence of violence; clarify the expiration date to indicate that the date of sentencing, not conviction, be used to determine the expiration date of an order of protection issued in relation to a family offense; and provide that orders of protection can’t be denied solely on the basis that the alleged abuse was not simultaneous with the date of the application.

To further help victims of domestic abuse, the Assembly passed a bill Miller supported that would expose individuals or parties who fail to obey or enforce an order of protection to joint liability for all non-economic damages sought by a claimant, after a fact-finding by a judge or jury. The measure reinforces New York’s zero-tolerance policy about domestic violence, Miller said.

A similar bill called the Domestic Violence Act of 2010 was introduced into the state Senate this year by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).

The act would increase penalties for serious and repeat offenders and use GPS technology to better enforce orders of protection, among other highlights.

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