Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5548

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

Vote Date:

3/26/2012

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

3/23/2012

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

To implement recommendations of the legislative task force on domestic violence.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Division of Criminal Justice: Supports this bill. The Division has worked with advocacy groups on several of the issues addressed in the bill, including the proposed revisions to the statutes on stalking. They again offer their assistance to the Committee if they seek to refine the language. Amendment: The Division also requests that the bill be revised to amend subsection (a) of section 53a-40e of the general statutes to eliminate the restriction that limits the issuance of a standing criminal protective order to “a family or household member, as defined in section 46b-38a.” The Division is aware of numerous instances where such orders would appropriately be issued against persons other than a family or household member.

Office of Chief Public Defender- Michael Alevy: Has concerns with the implementation and impact of several sections of this bill. The Office believes that section 6 of this bill is unnecessary and will result in unintended negative consequences affecting courtroom practice. This section concerns whether or not serious physical injury exists in determining eligibility for the Family Violence Education Program. Whether or not a victim has suffered serious physical injury is a question of fact for the jury. The way this section is worded indicates that courts will have to undertake time-consuming hearings verging on mini-trials to determine the presence of serious physical injury. Amendment: If section 6 retains the original language, the Office recommends substitute language that uses either the word “cause” or “result” instead of the word involves” in line 234. This change would create language that is more consistent with relevant and existing statutes.

Office of Victim Advocate- Michelle Cruz: Supports but recommends some changes to this bill.

Section 1 of this bill extends the time period of a restraining order from 6 months to 1 year. This change will undoubtedly ease the already overburdened family case dockets. Section 2 eliminates the age barrier for victims of family violence seeking protection from abuse and provides for notification to the law enforcement agency in the town where the victim attends school, both of which are of equal importance. Section 5 will bridge the gap of protection for victims when a bail commissioner is considering a defendant's bond and conditions of release by requiring them to consider the safety of another person. Section 13 allows family victim advocates to access certain information that will enhance the safety of the victim and his/her children.

Section 6 seemingly attempts to further limit a defendant's eligibility for the family violence education program when charged with an offense that involved serious physical injury. This section requires a court to find good cause, however there is documentation showing that this is not being enforced. Section 6 will create a conflict within the statute. Amendment: To remedy this, the OVA proposes striking the language “or unless good cause is shown.”

Section 8 seeks to clarify that when a person is listed as the protected person on an order of protection receives an electronic or telephonic communication from the subject of the order, in violation of the order of protection, such person may file a complaint. The proposed language, however, needs further clarification, as it does not clearly identify the “protected person” and the “subject of the order of protection.”

Section 10 adds to the threatening in the first-degree offenses that include use of a firearm. Amendment: The OVA recommends the Committee further amend subsection (c) of section 10 to include an enhanced penalty for a person convicted of the crime threatening with the use or threatened use of a firearm.

Section 11 concerns stalking and the (Amendment) OVA recommends the Committee support the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc. proposed language regarding this aspect of the bill.

Section 16 expands eligibility for victim compensation to children who witness domestic violence, including children who are not related to the victim. The OVA understands this need but wants to point out that the crime victim compensation fund is limited. The best response would be to bring together all of the key stakeholders and conduct a study that includes the impact of crime on children, both short and long term; an evaluation of the current services that are available to them; an evaluation of the compliance with crime victims' constitutional rights; trends throughout the nation; national survey of services; short and long term impact on tertiary victims, including communities; and report the findings of the study with recommendations to develop and improve Connecticut's response to victims of crime.

Section 17 requires each law enforcement agency to develop and implement specific operational guidelines which meet the minimum standard as set forth in the model policy developed by the Task Force. This section unintentionally undermines the work done by the Task Force and as such (Amendment) the OVA recommends removing the language “meet the standard set forth in” on line 565-566 and insert “adopt.”

It has been demonstrated time and time again that incidents of domestic violence run across jurisdictional lines, and if there is not a consistent, coordinated response, fatalities will occur. The Speaker's Task Force on Domestic Violence has worked tirelessly to ensure that Connecticut is at the forefront in its response to end domestic violence. Each law enforcement agency must be required to, at a minimum, adopt the statewide policy.

CT Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection- Reuben F. Bradford: Supports this bill. This legislation strengthens the rights and protection of victims of domestic violence by providing that all state law enforcement agencies adopt the standards set forth in the model policy amended by the Law Enforcement Response to Domestic Violence Task Force. All law enforcement agencies will be required to adopt specific guidelines into their current policies relating to police response to domestic violence incidents. The agency does not see any fiscal costs or considerations to our agency fulfilling the requirement of completing an annual report on the status of compliance for usage of the model law enforcement policy on family violence. The agency has previously assigned a representative to the Law Enforcement Response to Domestic Violence Task Force and recognizes the need of assigning a representative to serve on the proposed Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council. The Department supports ongoing efforts to evaluate policies and procedures, review and update the model policy and to evaluate data accuracy.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Speaker of the House- Christopher G. Donovan: Supports this bill. This legislation builds on a multi-year bipartisan effort to improve the state's response to domestic violence. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior between partners where one person uses physical, sexual, psychological, financial, or verbal abuse to try to control the other. When a victim has enough courage to call the police, to request a restraining order, or to leave her home, we want to make sure that services are in place to support a victim's efforts, which this bill does in a number of ways. It gives police officers new tools for responding to incidents of domestic violence, improves the enforcement of restraining and protective orders, gives victims new options for reporting, requires that courts share restraining or protective orders with the victim's school, permits judges to issue restraining orders for up to one year, creates a felony crime of threatening in the first degree, and commissions a feasibility study of 911 texting. Speaker Donovan urges support for these critical proposals.

Permanent Commission on The Status of Women: Supports this bill because it implements the recommendations of the legislative task force on domestic violence, of which the PCSW supports many of the concepts. Of particular note is the increase of the duration of restraining orders from 6 months to 12 months and investigates the feasibility of redesigning the statewide emergency 9-1-1 system in a manner that allows individuals to send a text message when in an emergency situation. Both of these recommendations would go a long way in supporting and protecting victims of domestic violence. The PCSW applauds the committee's attention to these matters.

Alvin A. Notice: Mr. Notice's daughter died as a result of domestic violence and he is asking for unanimous passage of this bill to make victims of domestic violence safer as they struggle to get their cases addressed within the judicial system. He urges that the bill remain intact and that the committee not allow any agency to add a “misdemeanor” restraining order class for “technical violations” because there is no such thing as a technical violation when it comes to peoples' lives.

Domestic Violence Crisis Center 360- Andrea Dahms: Ms. Dahms agency is contracted by the State to provide court-based victim advocacy, primarily through safety planning services. Law enforcement is often the first point of contact a victim will have in the criminal justice system and as such, plays a critical role in the response of our communities to domestic violence. A victim of domestic violence should be able to expect the same professional and appropriate response regardless of which law enforcement agency the crime is reported to. Mandating the adoption of the task force's model policy ensures this consistent response.

CT Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc.- Anna Doroghazi: The CONNSACS supports this bill and believes that it will also benefit victims of sexual assault, which is distinct from domestic violence. Amendment: They do, however, wish to see some of the protections in this bill apply to victims of sexual assault and stalking who are not “family or household members.” Many victims of sexual assault and stalking experience harm at the hands of friends or acquaintances and are still in need of protection. Although they support section 11 as it relates to stalking, CONNSACS feels the slight change is not enough and urges adoption of additional language that addresses the lack of protection for stalking victims who fear for the safety of their children and other third parties and which expands the scope of behaviors that currently constitute a stalking violation. The current stalking statutes are insufficient to protect victims.

CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence- Brian Sullivan: The CCADV stands ready to support this bill, providing that additional measures be implemented that can improve the safety and services for victims of domestic violence. Specifically, the stalking statutes need to be updated to include a wide range of offender behaviors. Additionally, although section 11 is an improvement, (Amendment) the committee should also consider language that eliminates stalking in the third degree and focuses on stalking in the second degree based on a course of conduct by the offender that causes the victim to fear for his/her physical safety or employment security.

DVCC360- Carrie Bernier: The DVCC feels that the civil restraining order is a critical safety tool for victims and that this bill significantly enhances this protection. The DVCC has included a letter from Jeannie Calcano, who has used their services after her initial application for a restraining order was denied, helped her successfully reapply. She supports the extended time period of a restraining order because it takes longer than a few months for victims to try to pull their lives together and permitting victims a full year would enable the time necessary to allow the healing process to take place. The full year allows sufficient time to relocate, organize, protect, reassess, and most importantly begin to live and heal.

CT Police Chiefs Association- Chiefs Anthony Salvatore & Matthew Reed: Members of the CPCA have participated in and worked collaboratively with other members of the Speaker's Task Force and supports its recommendations and the further protection of crime victims and rapid apprehension of offenders. They believe that continually reviewing and updating the statewide model policy will assist in guiding Connecticut's law enforcement agencies in their response to incidents of domestic violence and ultimately help better protect victims.

Christine Rodrigue: As a victim of domestic violence, she believes that having to reapply for a restraining order is a difficult endeavor that entails facing the offender again and urges the committee to extend the time period to one year. This would certainly make a difference in the lives of victims.

DVCC360: The DVCC supports the aspect of this bill that would enable court-based victim advocates to obtain access to information regarding an offender's prior history because often first time, even second time offenders, enter a diversionary program or receive nolles. Their third offense brings them to the court without a public criminal record. This information would help victim advocates develop a safety plan and effectively advocate for the victim. The proposed amendment would officially sanction the access of court-based advocates to critical information that will help us keep victims of domestic violence safe.

Karen Gaston: Ms. Gaston is a survivor of domestic violence and member of the Law Enforcement Response to Family Violence Task Force. In speaking with victims, she has noticed that different departments respond to domestic violence differently and sometimes differences exist within one department. As she had previously experienced, there was no uniform response. She supports this bill as it strives for the right approaches to getting better outcomes for victims.

CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence- Kathie Berkel: As a family violence victim advocate supervisor for the Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut, Ms. Berkel feels that this is a useful forum to examine the need for additional protections for victims of domestic violence. The CCADV, as a Coalition, works tirelessly to change social conditions through advocacy, public awareness, technical assistance, and education. The Task Force recommendations that are incorporated into this bill are important for victim safety planning, keeping abreast of relevant Connecticut Law, and putting into place a valuable mechanism for improving the safety of domestic violence victims and the consistency of law enforcement response to domestic violence.

CT Legal Services- Michael Burns: Attorney Burns has been representing victims of domestic violence for 25 years and is writing on behalf of three major legal services organizations; Connecticut Legal Services, Inc., Greater Hartford Legal Aid, and New Haven Legal Assistance, which are all in support of this bill. The purpose of this bill is to implement the recommendations of the legislative task force on domestic violence, specifically amending the current restraining order statute to add much needed protections for domestic violence victims. One protection that is of particular importance is the requirement that the clerk of the court send a copy of restraining orders to the school or special police force of the school or other educational program where the victim attends. This is a much-needed improvement as Attorney Burns has had numerous experiences where the abuser shows up at a victim's school. There is one important omission, however. Abusers often show up at the school or childcare facility of the victim's child or children. Children are often put in the middle of these horrible institutions and it is common for abusers to use children to get at their victims. To improve this bill, Attorney Burns recommends adding the language: (Amendment) At the request of the victim, any order of protection which includes any protections for any child listed on the order shall be sent by the clerk of the court to any school, preschool, daycare, or other such facility where the child is enrolled or attends.

Interval House- Penni Micca: As a member of the Task Force on Law Enforcement Response to Family Violence and a Law Enforcement Domestic Violence Advocate on the Domestic Violence Outreach Team, Ms. Micca feels that the change implemented by this bill regarding extending restitution services has made a huge impact on the affected individuals. She is also very proud of the work done by the Task Force in conjunction with P.O.S.T. to put together a model policy based on their recommendations. These operational guidelines will have a strong impact on the overall response to domestic violence, which will benefit officers in their response to domestic violence as well as the victims seeking assistance.

Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County- Ruth Dushay: Ms. Dushay is a civil court advocate for the Center for Women and Families who provides safety planning, counseling, referrals, and advocacy for victims of domestic violence. She believes that the provisions contained within this bill will provide additional protections for victims and survivors. Connecticut needs a model policy for all law enforcement agencies statewide to be able to rely on best practices when responding to family violence incidents. These best practices include adequate law enforcement training to ensure that inappropriate dual arrests do not occur. Additionally, the current form submitted with each domestic violence incident does not allow for clear-cut data to be gathered, making it difficult to determine the actual number of dual arrests. This form should be revised so that officers can document when a dual arrest has occurred. It would also be beneficial to add a checklist for officers so they can document that they have completed everything they are required to when responding to a family violence incident. Implementing these model polices will help protect officers as well as victims.

Center for Youth Leadership, Stamford Youth Services Bureau- Sam Lyman & Mallory Ham: Sam Lyman is a member of the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council at Stamford High School and Mallory Ham is a member of the Center for Youth Leadership at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk. High school students consistently list dating violence as a leading cause of emotional distress and a contributing factor for school failure. Providing greater access to as many resources as possible – including restraining and protective orders – is important to ensure academic and emotional success. They have recommendations, however, pertaining to section 4, which includes (Amendment) 1) adding language to cover protective orders and restraining orders, 2) instead of the protections being triggered by a violation of an existing order, they should be triggered upon the date of the initial protective or restraining order or a violation of an existing protective or restraining order, 3) that orders be sent via mail instead of fax, 4) that the mailing of the order occur “not later than 48 hours after the issuance of the order,” 5) since the victim may be a minor, in addition to “request by the victim,” the language should read “victim and/or the victim's parent/guardian,” and 6) that the victim and/or victim's guardian be advised that they have the option to send the order to a school and refer the victim to a domestic violence agency. Additionally, this bill should address the absence of a mandate that requires schools to have a dating violence protocol.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocate- Samantha Bayuk: Ms. Bayuk is a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocate at the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County (CWFEFC) and believes that the provisions contained in this bill will provide additional protection for victims and survivors of domestic violence. It is an important step towards providing victims of domestic violence with added safety measures as well as additional information regarding the abuser's case. The additional information is important in order to develop a well-informed safety plan for the victim.

Center for Children's Advocacy- Stacy Violante Cote: The Center particularly supports section 2 of this bill, which will allow minors who are victims of violence to consistently and safely access relief from abuse. This section also addresses concerns regarding whether minors can apply for relief from abuse by allowing minors who are victims of abuse to ask the Superior Court for relief from such abuse. The changes proposed in section 2 will go a long way in providing access to safety for minors who are victims of violence.

Board of Regents for Higher Education- Steven Weinberger: Mr. Weinberger is the Vice President for Human Resources at the Board of Regents for Higher Education, which supports this bill because it recognizes that victims of domestic violence may be enrolled at one of our seventeen institutions and, that in order to prevent incidents of domestic violence from occurring on campus, it is essential that these institutions be notified of any protective orders that have been issued. Specifically, sections 3 and 4 provide this language. In order to maximize this new protection, however, Mr. Weinberger recommends (Amendment) that notice of a protective order be transmitted directly to the President of the institution where the victim is enrolled. By directly engaging the President, this recommended revision would ensure that the intent of this bill is fully recognized.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Anonymous: This individual urges the committee to take a serious look at what can be better done to protect victims of stalking. In its current form, this individual feels that he or she is not protected as a stalking victim because they were not eligible for the protection of a restraining order due to the determination that it was harassment, not stalking. He or she wishes the committee would consider amendments to this legislation to strengthen the stalking statutes to make restraining orders more easily available to victims.

CT Criminal Defense Lawyers Association- Elisa L. Villa: The CCDLA objects to sections 6 and 11 of this bill but generally supports the efforts of the efforts of the two groups here, the Speaker's Task Force on Domestic Violence and the Task Force on Law Enforcement Response to Family Violence. Concerning section 6, the CCDLA feels it is unnecessary and will negatively impact certain FVEP applicants, their families, and court resources. Presently, the existence of physical injury or serious physical injury does not automatically bar acceptance into the FVEP. Whether a person has suffered serious physical injury as defined by the statutes is a question of fact for the jury to decide. Section 6 would create significant procedural hurdles for the courts in their efforts to determine FVEP eligibility. The current form of the FVEP adequately ensures that the program is only granted in appropriate cases. Because of this, the CCDLA urges a vote against this bill.

Reported by: Henry Rowland

Date: March 28, 2012