2008-07-11 / Top Stories

Domestic Violence Law Aids Unrelated Victims

Governor David A. Paterson joined state legislators to announce an agreement on legislation that expands access to civil orders of protection, bringing the State in line with the rest of the nation.

The law will give full protection to unrelated persons, including dating and intimate partners, including the right to obtain civil protective orders in Family Court, mandatory arrest of abusers, tracking orders of protection on the state registry, extended orders of protection in aggravating circumstances, and increased penalty for violation of orders of protection.

Currently, New York is the only state in the country where unrelated domestic violence victims who live or have lived together in the past cannot obtain a civil order of protection because of New York's narrow definition of who has access to Family Court.

The only option for such victims was to go through the criminal justice system - a daunting prospect taking an emotional and financial toll.

Moreover, New York law also does not permit couples in intimate or dating relationships to obtain a civil order of protection against an abuser - a protection granted by the federal government in the Violence Against Women Act.

According to the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Officer for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV), at least one half of the domestic violence incidents in New York State involved non-family relationships.

The bill also permits official court hearing officers to issue temporary orders of protection during court hours as well as after the court has closed for the day. It directs OPDV to develop curricula and provide training to those in the field who confront these issues regularly. Finally, OPDV will study the effects of this bill on law enforcement practices and the impact on the court system.

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