By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge — A three-way agreement among Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Republican-controlled state Senate and Democratic-dominated state Assembly has led to the passage in both legislative houses of a bill to strengthen the laws against domestic violence, local lawmakers said.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights/Bensonhurst) and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge/Staten Island) both said they voted in favor of the bill. Golden was a co-sponsor of the legislation. State Sen. Steve Saland (R-Poughkeepsie), chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, sponsored the legislation.
The bill will offer additional protections to domestic violence victims, according to Malliotakis, who said it closes up loopholes that had previously favored offenders.
“We, as elected officials, cannot stand idly by as loopholes in penal law afford violent criminals the opportunity to prey on their own family members,” said Malliotakis. “This legislation is a multi-tiered approach toward ridding our communities of domestic violence, which threatens lives and destroys families. It is my sincere hope that the protections contained in this bill will prevent future tragedies involving innocent victim.”
The bill also establishes stronger criminal penalties to punish individuals who commit acts of domestic violence, Malliotakis said.
Among the bill’s provisions:
- It creates a new crime of Aggravated Family Offense when one commits a “specified offense” and has been convicted of one or more such offenses within the immediately preceding five years. Aggravated Family Offense is a Class E felony. The victim does not have to be the same person or member of the same family or household.
- Among the crimes considered to be a “specified offense” are the following: assault; menacing; reckless endangerment; stalking; strangulation; manslaughter; murder; sexual misconduct; rape; sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment; burglary; predatory sexual assault of a child; and harassment.
- It allows a victim of domestic violence to request an alternative mailing address, telephone number or other contact information to receive specific health claim and billing information.
- It expands factors that courts must consider when determining recognizance or bail for domestic violence crimes. The court must consider and take into account any prior violations of orders of protection and the defendant’s history of use or possession of a firearm.
- It increases the crime of harassment from a violation to a Class A misdemeanor, where the defendant and victim are members of the same family or household.
The bill establishes within the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence a domestic violence fatality review team, to examine factors involved in domestic violence homicides and suicides and make recommendations.
The bill also prohibits someone who has had an Order of Protection placed against them from gaining control over the disposition of a victim’s remains. It is often galling to family members that the person who hurt the victim is often the person who gets to decide on funeral arrangements, lawmakers said.
Golden, who called it a “life-saving bill,” said the legislation increases protections for victims.
“Our society should not tolerate hateful acts of domestic violence and this new law will continue our state’s longstanding tradition of protecting women’s rights. No one in the Empire State should have to live under the threat of violence and fear,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he was pleased that the bill was crafted with bipartisan support.
“Rather than politicize this issue, as others have done, we’ve worked cooperatively with the governor and Assembly to once again show that government can function and deliver on a critically important issue,” Skelos said.
“The high incidence of repeat offenders of domestic violence in New York is alarming and unacceptable,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said. “Domestic violence is a major problem in New York, with more than 400,000 incidents reported annually.
“The Assembly has a longstanding commitment to ending the cycle of abuse caused by domestic violence, through strong, comprehensive legislation. I am pleased that Governor Cuomo and our colleagues in the Senate have joined us in the fight to protect victims of abuse. This agreement will enable us to effectively prosecute cases of repeat abuse, reduce future incidents, and, ultimately, protect victims,” Silver said.