July 20, 2012
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BILL SIGNED INTO LAW
New Law Improves Police Procedures & Restraining Order Enforcement
House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden), State Representatives Mae Flexer (D-Killingly, Plainfield, Sterling) and Gerald Fox III (D-Stamford) joined Governor Dannel P. Malloy at the State Capitol today for a ceremonial signing of a new domestic violence law.
The new law (Public Act 12-114), which goes into effect on October 1st, is based on the Speaker’s Task Force on Domestic Violence’s recommendations. A key part of the law gives police officers new tools for responding to incidents of domestic violence, including a requirement that municipal police departments develop and implement operational guidelines for arrest policies. The law designates a uniform standard, but gives departments the flexibility to tailor implementation to fit their resources. The law also establishes a Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council to update the model policy going forward and review relevant data.
“This law gives new support to victims, police officers, advocates and other front-line providers,” said Speaker Donovan. “When a victim has worked up the courage to call police, to request a restraining order or to leave her home, we want to make sure that services are in place to support her. We owe it to victims to train police in best practices so they can respond to calls speedily and appropriately, and this law gives police officers new tools for responding to domestic violence incidents.”
“It is critical that we continue to strengthen Connecticut's response to domestic violence,” said Rep. Flexer, who chairs the Domestic Violence Task Force. “It is shocking to realize that about 30 percent of criminal court dockets involve domestic violence. We must do everything we can to prevent domestic violence and protect victims in our state. This legislation continues to fortify systems statewide to accomplish that.”
Victims and victims’ advocates told the task force that victims are often confused about the appropriate place to report electronic and telephonic violations of restraining and protective orders. The law will permit victims to report these violations in the town where they reside, where they receive the communication or where the communication was initiated.
"We have made great progress in recent years in helping those victimized, but the fight to reduce the incidence of domestic violence is an ongoing challenge,” said Rep. Fox, task force member and House Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “This year we focused on laws to better protect victims by giving new tools to law enforcement and strengthening the use of protective orders.”
The law also permits judges to issue restraining orders for up to one year to reduce stress and risk to victims who will have to return to court and interface with their offenders less frequently. Currently the maximum length of a restraining order is six months.
Another provision of the law requires that courts share protective orders with the schools the victims attend, upon request of a victim. Current law requires that orders be shared with the police departments in the town where the victim lives and works and the town where the defendant lives, but it does not require that schools or campus police are notified of an order.
Although threatening is often a precursor to serious violence, threatening with a firearm is currently a misdemeanor in Connecticut. The new law makes threats that involve the use of a firearm a felony crime. It also strengthens the definition of stalking to ensure that stalking incidents – including digital and online stalking – are appropriately punished.
In addition to this legislation, a second ill reauthorized a program using a global positioning system (GPS) to monitor certain domestic violence offenders.
The task force, created by Speaker Donovan in 2009 and led by Rep. Flexer since its creation, has led the effort over the past few years to enact stronger laws to prevent violence against women and assist victims of domestic violence. Additional information about the task force can be found on its web site at www.housedems.ct.gov/DV.