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May 2012 Verve: An Act Concerning Domestic Violence

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This week, Governor Malloy signed into law An Act Concerning Domestic Violence (Public Act No. 12-114). This bill represents many months of work by an untold number of individuals and organizations and goes a long way towards enhancing the safety of victims of domestic violence in our communities. There are a number of key provisions that are relevant to the work of all of our community partners:

 

Re-Defining Stalking in Connecticut

When a victim of domestic violence leaves an abusive relationship, the abuser often engages in stalking behavior in an effort to regain control. With the explosion of the internet, smart-phones, and similar technology, cyber-stalking has been an increasing problem for a number of years. While virtually every state has a law that generally addresses stalking behaviors, some laws are much stronger and broader than others. With the passage of An Act Concerning Domestic Violence, Connecticut has made two significant statutory changes in an effort to more effectively respond to victims of domestic violence who are being stalked.

The first major change is a new definition for Stalking in the 2nd Degree. This new definition captures a broader range of stalking behaviors that domestic violence perpetrators engage in (see Sidebar), and, in particular, more competently addresses how stalking methods have changed as technology has developed. The woman whose ex-boyfriend places a tracker on her car so he can monitor her comings and goings will now have that behavior recognized as stalking, just as if he had been caught hiding in the bushes outside of her apartment.

The second major change is to add stalking to the definition of Family Violence, under C.G.S. § 46b-38a. By doing so, stalking crimes will now be subject to Connecticut’s Mandatory Arrest Law. This will statutorily mandate immediate law enforcement intervention in stalking cases and, therefore, enhance the safety of victims of domestic violence who are being stalked by an abuser.

 

Expanded Length of Restraining Orders

An Act Concerning Domestic Violence makes several changes with respect to Connecticut’s restraining order practice. The most significant change is the amendment to C.G.S. § 46b-15 that will allow courts to issue restraining orders for a full year, as opposed to six months. With the passage of this legislation, Connecticut joins 46 other states that currently allow civil restraining orders to be issued for at least a one year period.

 

Mandatory Model Policy for Law Enforcement Response

During the 2011 legislative session, Connecticut created a Law Enforcement Response to Family Violence (LERFV) Task Force. This task force was charged with evaluating the current law enforcement response to domestic violence and creating a statewide model policy. The model policy submitted to the legislature by the task force addressed a host of critical issues, including:

  • A protocol for allowing an abuser back into the home for property retrieval after a protection order or restraining order has been issued;
  • A protocol for officer involved domestic violence incidents;
  • Requiring that each law enforcement agency assign an officer with supervisory duties to act as a domestic violence liaison; and
  • Clarifying prior language with respect to dual arrests and the application of the mandatory arrest law when faced with cross-complaints.

An Act Concerning Domestic Violence not only statutorily mandates that every law enforcement agency comply with the model policy, it also creates a standing Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council to ensure that the Model Policy is continuously reviewed by a broad range of stakeholders and updated to reflect best practice law enforcement response protocols. In doing so, An Act Concerning Domestic Violence will do more to advance the law enforcement response to domestic violence than any other single piece of legislation since the passage of the Family Violence Prevention and Response Act in 1986.

  • The Model Law Enforcement Policy on Family Violence can be found at: http://www.housedems.ct.gov/DV/pubs/022712/Model_Policy_Final.pdf.
  • The Report and Recommendations of the Law Enforcement Response to Family Violence Task Force, which served as the foundation for the development of the Model Policy, can be found at: http://www.housedems.ct.gov/DV/pubs/121511/LERFV_Report_12-15-11-Final.pdf.

 

Enforcement of Restraining/Protection Orders

The LERFV Task Force heard from several victims and advocates that individuals seeking to report electronic and telephonic violations of protection and/or restraining orders were experiencing some confusion with respect to which law enforcement agency to report those violations to when the communication was sent from a different community than it was received. The confusion was compounded when the victim did not reside in either of those jurisdictions. An Act Concerning Domestic Violence addresses the concern that victim safety is being compromised while law enforcement determines which agency has jurisdiction to take and follow up on a such a complaint by creating firm guidelines with respect to how law enforcement should respond in such situations. The Act allows victims to report electronic or telephonic violations of protection and/or restraining orders to any one of three possible law enforcement agencies: (1) where the communication was initiated; (2) where the communication was received; and (3) where the protected party resides. The police department that receives the complaint is responsible for moving forward with that complaint, and the court in any of those three locations is given jurisdiction over the prosecution of the violation.

All of provisions referenced above will take effective on October 1, 2012. The full text of An Act Concerning Domestic Violence can be found at: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/ACT/PA/2012PA-00114-R00HB-05548-PA.htm. DVCC360 would encourage all of our colleagues to independently review the new law in its entirety to become familiar with these and many other critical reforms contained therein.

SPECIAL THANKS: DVCC360 would like to recognize and give special thanks to Representative Mae Flexer, Chair of the Speaker’s Domestic Violence Task Force and Co-Chair of the LERFV Task Force; Karen Jarmoc, Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Co-Chair of the LERFV Task Force; Representative Gerry Fox of Stamford, Co-Chair of the Judiciary Committee; the members of both the LERFV Task Force and the Speaker’s Domestic Violence Task Force; and all of our local legislators who continue to work so diligently with the DVCC to ensure that Connecticut’s laws are in line with the State’s commitment to keeping victims safe in our communities, including Representative Larry Cafero of Norwalk, Minority Leader, who was instrumental in seeing that the DVCC was able to actively contribute to the work of the LERFV Task Force. We look forward to continuing to work with you all.

  1. See Stalking and Domestic Violence: Report to Congress, at pg. vii, National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJ 186157), Rockville, MD (May 2001).
  2. See C.G.S. § 46b-38b(a).

EXPANDED PROTECTIONS:

STALKING IN THE 2ND DEGREE

A person is guilty of stalking in the second degree when:

Before Amendment:

With intent to cause another person to fear for his physical safety, he willfully and repeatedly follows or lies in wait for such person and causes such other person to reasonably fear for his physical safety.

After Amendment:

(1) Such person knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for such person’s physical safety or the physical safety of a third person; or

(2) Such person intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear that such person’s employment, business or career is threatened, where (A) such conduct consists of the actor telephoning to, appearing at or initiating communication or contact at such other person’s place of employment or business, provided the actor was previously and clearly informed to cease such conduct, and (B) such conduct does not consist of constitutionally protected activity.

The Act further defines “Course of Conduct” as: two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which a person directly, indirectly or through a third party, by any action, method, device or means, (1) follows, lies in wait for, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, harasses, communicates with or sends unwanted gifts to, a person, or (2) interferes with a person’s property.

C.G.S. § 53a-181d.

 

“There is established a model law enforcement policy on family violence for the state. Such policy shall consist of the model policy submitted by the task force established in section 19 of public act 11-152 on January 31, 2012, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the judiciary, as amended from time to time by the Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council established pursuant to section 25 of this act.”

C.G.S. § 46b-38b(e)(2).