Mass. Lawmakers Compromise To Strengthen Domestic Violence Laws
Domestic violence legislation that creates a first offense domestic violence assault and battery charge, establishes a domestic violence offender registry, and provides education for judges and prosecutors about cycles of abuse was finalized by lawmakers late Wednesday.
The bill, set to come up for a final vote on Thursday, also requires a six-hour “cooling off” period before anyone arrested on a domestic violence charge can be arraigned and bailed from jail, in the hopes of de-escalating a situation, or giving a victim time to seek safety.
“We believe that slowing down the process will allow the district attorneys to find out a little bit more information about alleged perpetrators, so they can get criminal histories, get police reports from other towns and other districts,” said Rep. Christopher Markey, a former prosecutor who participated in the conference committee that finalized the legislation.
The creation of a domestic violence first offense assault and battery charge will give prosecutors more tools, advocates say. The compromise legislation also gives prosecutors more time to assess a case in order to decide whether or not to request a dangerousness hearing, according to Rep. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham), who participated in negotiations.
“It really empowers victims and plugs some gaps that were in the system up until today,” Bradley said about the compromise bill.
Judges and prosecutors will have more information available to them about an accused batterer’s history of domestic violence through a record keeping system similar to the state’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI).
The legislation also creates state and local review teams of police, prosecutors and domestic violence advocates that will communicate in order to recognize the signs when violence has escalated to the point where a victim’s life is in imminent danger.
The bill's final version also includes a provision the House added to remove the requirement that individuals obtain a firearms identification card in order to carry pepper spray.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo previously said the murder last summer of a Waltham woman, Jennifer Martel, by her boyfriend Jared Remy sparked his desire to look at state laws surrounding domestic violence and restraining orders. Remy, son of Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy, pleaded guilty to murdering Martel the night after being arraigned in Waltham District Court on assault charges for slamming her face into a mirror.
This article was originally published on July 31, 2014.