Hartford, CT - It is alarming how quickly some domestic violence offenders are able to get out of jail after posting bond, sometimes after paying a certain portion of the bond up front, and other times having paid nothing. The announced on Tuesday settlement in a 2010 case involving a domestic violence murder-suicide in West Haven reminds us of the importance of strengthening our laws to protect victims of domestic violence. The offender in the case was released from jail following an arrest for assault on his wife and he returned to their home and killed her less than twelve hours after the arrest.
"The period immediately following the arrest of an abusive individual on charges related to domestic violence can be particularly volatile as the abuser has completely lost control of the victim," said Karen Jarmoc, Chief Executive Officer of Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV). "Ensuring protections that prevent offenders from immediately returning to the scene of the crime are crucial. Victims need time to plan for their safety and that of their children, which may include fleeing to a safer location."
The General Assembly is currently considering implementing a temporary hold for certain domestic violence arrestees when law enforcement identify evidence-based risk factors for fatal violence. These risk factors include the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon, threats to seriously injure or kill the victim, or seriously physical injuries caused by the arrestee. The proposal would call for arrestees demonstrating any one of these risk factors to be temporarily held for 12 hours before being able to post bond following their arrest. At least six other states have similar laws (Alabama, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee).
Current state law allows an individual who has been arrested for family violence to post bail immediately. This results in some family violence arrestees only being held for an hour or two after an arrest - the amount of time it takes to be transported to the local police department, processed, and post the required percentage of the bond set by the police. Such a brief period of time is inadequate for victims to formulate a safety plan, gather important belongings, pick up children, or find a safe place to stay.
Domestic violence is a unique offense where perpetrators may immediately return to the scene of the crime - their home - following an arrest. While law enforcement may set conditions of release that prohibit them from returning to their home or going near the victim, that's not always enough to keep these offenders away. And because they have lost control of the victim as a result of their arrest, they may take extreme and increasingly violent actions to regain take control.
The proposal currently being considered by the General Assembly can be found in Senate Bill 651, An Act Concerning Temporary Holds of Certain Family Violence Arrestees. This bill was one of several that died earlier this month in the Judiciary Committee due to reasons outside of the bill content. We urge legislators to include the issue in another bill related to domestic violence. To learn more about the issue, please see CCADV's policy brief.
Connecticut has averaged 14 intimate partner homicides each year since 2000. To learn more about intimate partner homicides in Connecticut, please see the CT Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee annual report at www.ctcadv.org.
Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Inc. is a membership organization made up of the state's 18 domestic violence agencies. Help is available to victims 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each agency offers free services to victims including a toll-free hotline, safety through shelter, counseling and support groups, and by assisting in securing a restraining order. If you or someone you know needs support, call the statewide free and confidential hotlines at 888-774-2900 (English) or 844-831-9200 (Español) to be connected to your local domestic violence agency. For more information about CCADV visit us online at www.ctcadv.org.
The above is the opinion of the author and as such does not represent the opinion Canaiden LLC, its associates and entities.