Working to Improve Laws for Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Every year at the Virginia General Assembly, VPLC supports, opposes and/or works to amend legislative initiatives that affect domestic and sexual violence victims. This year is no exception. As we approach Crossover (the point at which each chamber—the House of Delegates and the Senate—must finish hearing its own bills), we’ve highlighted some of the bills that have failed or that we expect to become law:

HB 262 (Delegate Jason Miyares) is a bill to prevent abusers with protective orders against them from cutting off victims’ cell phones. This safety measure  passed the House unanimously and reported out of Senate Courts of Justice on a 12-3 vote.

HB 807  is designed to allow judges to consider a parent’s “other violent abuse” in making a custody or visitation determination. But VPLC and other victim advocates fear its overly broad nature will lead to the unintended consequence of giving abusers yet another tool to use against victims. HB 807 failed to report from the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee.

HB 744  would have had a chilling effect on victims seeking Preliminary Protective Orders (PPOs) by requiring judges to make findings and a summary of allegations when an affidavit is not attached to the other documents served on abusers. In courts in populous areas that are very busy, if this bill were to become law, some judges might refuse to issue PPOs if they were forced to make findings and a summary of allegations. While VPLC supports abusers’ due process rights, HB 744 is burdensome for the court, requiring District Courts that are not courts of record, to MAKE records in what are supposed to be emergency, limited time orders designed to prevent further acts of violence, force or threat.  HB 744 failed to report out of the full House Courts of Justice Committee on a bipartisan 11-7 vote.  The Senate version of this bill, SB 85  passed the Senate, and will now be heard by the House.

A good bill, SB 952 (Senator Richard Stuart) passed the Senate Courts of Justice Committee only to be carried over to Senate Finance Committee in 2019 (failed to report for 2018). The bill would have given discretion to judges to issue longer protective orders than the current two-year term under circumstances where the abuser has also been convicted of a violent felony such as malicious wounding or strangulation. VPLC supported this bill (and its House companion, HB 1335 patroned by Delegate Bourne) as a common sense way to prevent victims from having to relive their trauma every two years.

For more information on these or other 2018 bills that affect domestic or sexual violence victims, contact Susheela Varky,Director, Center for Family Advocacy, at [email protected] or 804-351-5274.”

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