April 28, 2015

Assembly Passes Legislation to Combat Domestic Violence and Protect Victims

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein and Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol announced the passage of a legislative package that would strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence and empower survivors to reclaim their lives.

"Domestic violence is a heartbreaking reality for far too many New Yorkers that transcends race, class, gender and sexual orientation," Speaker Heastie said. "This legislative package builds on past legislation to protect and support domestic violence survivors. No one should have to suffer through domestic abuse, and with the approval of these bills the Assembly is continuing its fight to help victims break free and get on the path to recovery."

According to the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, police outside of New York City responded to 187,710 domestic incidents in 2013 alone. In the same year, New York's two domestic abuse and sexual assault hotlines received a total of 108,599 calls.

The legislative package includes a bill that would make it illegal for individuals convicted of certain family offenses to possess firearms by adding such offenses to the list of "serious offenses" for which purchasing or possessing a license for a firearm, rifle or shotgun would constitute a class A misdemeanor. (A.6340, O'Donnell). The package also includes a measure that would require the surrender of weapons following a conviction in certain misdemeanor cases (A.5257, Paulin).

Additionally, the package includes a measure that would permit victims of domestic violence to recover non-economic damages from defendants who fail to obey or enforce domestic violence orders of protection or temporary orders of protection (A.260, Weinstein). The bill would exempt these defendants from limited liability provisions and give victims expanded rights of recovery in order to strengthen the enforcement of orders of protection.

"Orders of protection are a significant way to shield domestic violence victims from any further attacks at the hands of their abuser," Weinstein said. "While New York State has taken many steps to ensure that orders of protection are strongly and effectively enforced, we have a long way to go. Today's package of bills helps close loopholes that remain in the current law and truly works to keep domestic violence victims safe."

"Domestic violence takes a devastating toll on victims," Lentol said. "With the passage of this legislation, the Assembly continues to be proactive in both fighting domestic violence and providing resources and support to help ease the recovery process for those who have been victimized and their loved ones."

The legislative package also includes measures that would:

Moreover, the series of bills includes a measure that would establish a pilot program to allow victims to file petitions for temporary orders of protection electronically and allow for issuance of those orders by audio-visual means to facilitate the process for victims (A.6262, Joyner).