Massachusetts State Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford) this week voted in favor of domestic violence legislation that creates new criminal offenses and elevated penalties, boosts prevention efforts and looks to empower victims.
The bill, which would delay bail for domestic-violence suspects, toughen penalties for offenders and train judges on related issues, now moves to the state Senate. House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who introduced the bill with Attorney General Maratha Coakley, has called the bill the most comprehensive overhaul of the state’s domestic violence laws in a generation.
"This sweeping legislation changes the way in which we deal with domestic violence," Fernandes said in a statement. "In this bill, we add the tools domestic violence advocates have told us they need to deal with the issue. We add new crimes and strengthen the criminal penalties available to judges. We impose new cooling off periods before bail is available. We address efforts to assess the causes and solutions to domestic violence, create new training programs, and add new protections and resources for victims. It represents a major step forward in dealing with the issue."
In essence, the bill does away with the practice of allowing accord and satisfaction in domestic violence cases and establishes the following crimes:
- Domestic assault or domestic assault and battery near a court house
- Domestic assault or domestic assault and battery with the intent to intimidate or prevent access to courts
The legislation also establishes enhanced training programs and creates domestic fatality review teams to investigate domestic violence-related fatalities. Moreover, the teams are meant to help officials understand any shortcomings present in current protocol.
The bill includes the following provisions:
- Delays bail for offenders to provide the victim with time for safety planning and authorizes the revocation bail in certain cases
- Establishes employment leave for victims of domestic violence
- Establishes fees for domestic violence offenses. These will be invested in the newly created Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance fund
- Broadens court authorization related to custody and support orders;
- Requires law enforcement agencies to provide information on batterer’s intervention to defendants when serving them with a Chapter 209A restraining order.