Domestic Violence Legislation Signed in to Law
July 25, 2007
(Augusta, ME) Legislation that aims to decrease domestic violence in Maine was singed ceremonially Wednesday, July 25, by Governor Baldacci. “An Act to Protect Families and Enhance Public Safety by Making Domestic Violence a Crime” (LD 1627), is sponsored by Senate President Beth Edmonds, D-Cumberland County. The law creates new Class D crimes called: “domestic violence assault,” “domestic violence criminal threatening,” “domestic violence terrorizing,” “domestic violence stalking” and “domestic violence reckless conduct.” The victims of these crimes are family and household members.
Senator Edmonds said: “In this bill, we have given prosecutors the tools to take this step forward in Maine and figure out how to make domestic violence itself understood,” President Edmonds said. “We have given those prosecutors a way to take care of it in a better way.” Senator Edmonds also congratulated and thanked the many people at the signing who had worked to make the measure become law.
Domestic abuse is not one isolated incident but a series of events. This measure makes Maine among the first states in the nation to recognize the limitations of the current criminal justice response by enacting a law that enhances penalties in the situation where a course of conduct occurs in family relationships.
Until now, existing crimes used to prosecute domestic violence have caused difficulties in data collection, in determining whether an offense is a qualifying conviction under the federal law to prohibit a domestic violence offender from possessing a firearm and in giving an accurate understanding to the public of the true scope of what the domestic violence problem in this state is. The criminal provisions of the law will take effect February 1, 2008.
Governor Baldacci said: “We’ve come a long way in just a few short years, much to the credit of the partnership between the Legislature and my Administration, as well as a network of advocates,” Governor Baldacci said. “Yet, we have a long way to go. Too many women and children are being victimized, and each story is tragic and compelling.”
“We need to do more to help victims obtain access to comprehensive resources and assistance so they can safely get out of abusive situations,” the Governor said. “This includes financial, emotional and legal help.”
Other aspects of decreasing domestic violence in Maine were also addressed in additional measures signed by the Governor earlier this year.
Victims of domestic violence at times strike back. Whether in self-defense or in a preventative mode in anticipation of being hit because of a “trigger” the aggressor has used, the victim should not be considered the predominant aggressor. Legislation that deals with this is a resolve directing the Maine Criminal Justice Academy Board of Trustees to develop and implement law enforcement training regarding how to determine the predominant aggressor in domestic violence situations (LD 1039).
Predominant aggressor policies help promote victim safety by aiming to provide guidelines by which law enforcement officers can fully assess a situation rather than make an arrest based on apparent injuries to one party. This measure, sponsored by Representative Deborah Simpson, D-Auburn, brings Maine in line with 18 other states that have adopted predominant aggressor analysis and law enforcement policies. LD 1039 was signed by the Governor in June. The Criminal Justice Academy Board must report its progress to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee by April 1, 2008 and establish training by June 30, 2008.
Domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and intervention funding of $1.9 million was included in the two-year state budget effective this July. The budget appropriates funds for the Department of Health and Human Services to contract with community-based agencies to provide school-based and community-based domestic violence and sexual assault projects for education, prevention and provision of direct services. This addresses the goal of a bill introduced earlier this year that was sponsored by Senator Bill Diamond, D-Cumberland County.
Photo Available at: http://www.maine.gov/legis/president/NewsReleases/LD1627Signing-2007-07-25.JPG
Caption – Governor Baldacci Signing An Act to Protect Families and Enhance Public Safety by Making Domestic Violence a Crime – Attending: Commissioner of Public Safety Anne Jordan; Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick; Senate President Beth Edmonds, D-Freeport; Josh Miramant; Rep. David Miramant, D-Camden; Rep. Leila Percy, D-Phippsburg