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Lt. Governor Brown Highlights New Domestic Violence Laws Taking Effect October 1st

Kicking off Domestic Violence Month, New Laws Championed by Lt. Governor Protect Victims and Children, Improve Justice System, and Hold Abusers Accountable

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 1, 2014) – Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown marked the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month by highlighting three new laws going into effect that expand protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Maryland and hold abusers accountable. Brown, who leads the Administration’s initiatives to reduce domestic violence, spearheaded efforts to pass the Administration’s three-bill domestic violence package during the 2014 Legislative Session.

“Domestic violence does not discriminate – its impact is felt in every community regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, or gender,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “This month we come together to raise awareness of this senseless crime and recommit ourselves to the effort to eliminate it. These new laws are an important part of our continued progress to protect women and children from domestic violence, but our work is not complete until every Marylander is free from fear in their home or in their community.”

After similar legislation had been introduced four separate times over the past ten legislative sessions, Lt. Governor Brown championed efforts this year to finally end Maryland’s dubious distinction as the only state that requires victims to meet a higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence” in order to obtain a peace or protective order by reducing the standard to a “preponderance of the evidence.” Of the nearly 5,300 final peace or protective orders that were denied last year alone, 3,500 of those were because the victim could not meet the standard of “clear and convincing evidence.” This important change, which takes effect today, will ensure more victims of domestic violence have access to the protections they need.

Also, as of today, second degree assault will now be included among the list of crimes for which a person can obtain a permanent final protective order. According to the Maryland State’s Attorneys Association, the majority of domestic violence cases involve second degree assault (Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy, 2012). Additionally, a 2012 report showed that 94 percent of domestic violence crimes reported to the police are charged as assault (Uniform Crime Report, 2012).

“We were pleased to work with Lt. Governor Brown and many others this session to pass these critical laws which will go a long way toward ensuring victims have access to the protections they need,” said Dorothy Lennig, Legal Clinic Director at House of Ruth Maryland. “Thanks to these new laws, victims will no longer be turned away for lack of evidence and we’ve closed a loophole which prevented permanent final protective orders from being issued in cases of second degree assault, the most common domestic violence conviction.”

Lastly, as of today, judges will have the authority to impose enhanced penalties for acts of domestic violence committed in the presence of a minor in the home. This law will help hold abusers accountable and keep Maryland children safe, and also represents an important step in breaking the cycle of violence. Studies carried out over the last 25 years consistently agree that children who witness violence are at a higher risk for a wide range of behavioral, emotional, and intellectual problems than are children who have not been exposed to violence.

“Today marks critical recognition of the traumatic impact that witnessing violence has upon a child,” said Adam Rosenberg, Executive Director at the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. “Thanks to the leadership of Lt. Governor Brown, who has for years advocated for the protection of women and children from violence, Maryland now can punish those who commit acts of violence in the presence of minors in the home and commits itself to protecting these children from future violence.”

Reducing domestic violence is a personal cause for Lt. Governor Brown. In August 2008, his cousin Cathy was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend. The grief of her loss spurred Lt. Governor Brown to increase his efforts to address domestic violence in our state. Building on his experience as a legislator and the perspective provided by this tragedy, Lt. Governor Brown has championed several reforms to combat domestic violence and protect women and children from violent crime:
•2009 – Brown leads successful effort to give judges the authority to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers
•2010 – Brown champions legislation allowing a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a residential lease with a copy of a final protective order
•2012 – Brown leads effort to allow Marylanders to apply for unemployment benefits when forced to leave a job to escape the threat of domestic violence
•2012 – Brown champions legislation to make child neglect a criminal act in Maryland, previously the only state that did not criminalize child neglect
•2013 – Brown secured funding to expand training and implementation of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) in 100% of Maryland’s 109 law enforcement agencies
•2014 – Brown worked to pass three critical laws: reducing the burden of proof to obtain a peace or protective order; adding second degree assault to the list of crimes for which a permanent final protective order can be issued; giving judges the ability to impose enhanced penalties for acts of domestic violence committed in front of a minor in the home
•2014 – Brown launches Maryland’s 9th and 10th hospital-based domestic violence screening programs. The number of hospital-based programs has more than doubled since 2010 under the Lt. Governor’s leadership.

Under the leadership of the O’Malley-Brown Administration, violent crime in Maryland has been driven down to the lowest rate in nearly 40 years. As a result of their increased focus on violent crime committed against women and children, the number of female and juvenile homicide victims is down 26.2 percent since 2006.