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News Oct 1, 2012 - 8:37:04 AM

Flexer: New law taking effect to help domestic violence victims

By State Representative Mae Flexer's office

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State Representative Mae Flexer (D-Killingly, Plainfield, Sterling) announced that a new state law goes into effect on Monday that will better protect victims of domestic violence.

Victims of domestic violence will see greater support from the courts, law enforcement agencies and court-based victim service providers. The new law (Public Act 12-114) is based on the Speaker’s Task Force on Domestic Violence’s recommendations.

“After listening to victim advocates, law enforcement officials, and other experts, we produced and passed aggressive legislation that will help those who are in abusive relationships and need support,” said Rep. Flexer, who heads the Domestic Violence Task Force.

A key part of the law gives police officers new tools for responding to incidents of domestic violence, including a requirement that municipal police departments develop and implement operational guidelines for arrest policies. The departments would set a uniform standard, but are given flexibility to tailor implementation to fit their departments. The law also establishes a Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council to update the model policy going forward and review relevant data.

The law also permits judges to issue restraining orders for up to one year to reduce stress and risk to victims who will have to return to court and interface with their offenders less frequently. Currently the maximum length of a restraining order is six months.

With increasing numbers of people using texting as their primary way of communicating, the task force would like to see a 911 texting system implemented statewide. Unfortunately there are a number of technical barriers to implementing 911 texting, so the law requires the Office of Statewide Emergency Telecommunications to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of developing a 911 texting system.

The law also requires that courts share protective orders with schools that victims attend, upon request of a victim. Current law requires that orders be shared with the police departments in the town where the victim lives and works and the town where the defendant lives, but it does not require that schools or campus police are notified of an order.

Although threatening is often a precursor to serious violence, threatening with a firearm is currently a misdemeanor in Connecticut. This law would make threats that involve the use of a firearm a felony crime. It also strengthens the definition of stalking to ensure that stalking incidents—including digital and online stalking—are appropriately punished.

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