Domestic Violence Bill Signed In MD - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Domestic Violence Bill Signed In MD

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MARYLAND - In this year's Maryland General Assembly, bills decriminalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage dominated the headlines, but this year there also were some pretty significant victories for victims of domestic violence, and advocates said it's about time.

The bill changes the burden of proof for victims seeking final protective and peace orders, making it easier to keep an abusive partner away, but not everyone is excited for the new legislation.

It's a bill advocates for victims of domestic violence have been in a long battle over...

"We've been fighting for over ten years," says Michele Hughes, Executive Director of the Life Crisis Center.

This year, Maryland passed a law making it easier for victims to get a protective order against an alleged abuser.

Before, "clear and convincing evidence" was needed.

"The victim has got to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is a victim of violence before she can get a stay away order," says Hughes.

The new law eases requirements, leaving much of the decision making up to whether or not a judge believes someone who may not have photographs -- text messages -- emails -- to back up claims.
     
"This is a way to help keep women safe where there's some question...because, you know, we can't know what happens in people's homes," says Hughes.

It's a victory for people advocating for the rights of domestic violence victims, but defense attorney Nathan Long worries the new law could make it easier for people to abuse the system.     

Long says "people use it as a sword without the purest of intent, because if I'm upset with somebody, I can put this order against them, it's easier to get now,  and there might not be as much of a basis for granting it."

According to the defense attorney we spoke with, this bill will likely lead to more people successfully filing protective orders.

What's interesting is Marylanders can erase from the public record, any evidence that someone was falsely accused of domestic violence, but now, some worry is innocent people might now be faced with this pretty serious blemish on their record.

There were a number of other laws passed this year supporting victims of sexual assault including one that making Rape by Proxy a felony.  The bill gives prosecutors a strong tool to use when perpetrators steal a victim's identity or social media profiles and post solicitations stating that the victim wants to be sexually assaulted.

 

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