New York State will have some new laws that take effect January first. One is a multi-layered legislative package that provides new protections for domestic violence victims. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill package October 25th. One piece of the legislation increases the penalty for repeat offenders to a felony by creating a Class E felony, Aggravated Family Offense. Manhattan District Attorney and President of the New York District Attorneys Association of the State of New York Cyrus Vance, Jr., said this addresses an underlying issue: the ability of offenders to abuse their victims again and again without serious consequences.
Rob Rolison is chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature; and prior to becoming chairman, he was part of the county’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Domestic Violence. He says he, along with law enforcement and advocacy groups across the state have been pushing for the initiatives that are part of the package, a package that he says is comprehensive, and one with which he is very pleased, especially with relation to the following.
Michael Berg is the executive director of Ulster County-based Family of Woodstock, in Kingston, an organization that provides crisis intervention, information, and other support services for area individuals and families in need, including for domestic violence victims.
Rolison, a Republican who is also a former member of the Town of Poughkeepsie police department, said it makes sense to give judges more leeway when it comes to abusers.
Both Rolison and Berg credit outgoing Republican State Senator Stephen Saland, of Poughkeepsie, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, with being a staunch advocate for domestic violence victims. Another measure set to go into effect in less than one week allows a victim of domestic violence to request an alternative mailing address, telephone number, or other contact information to receive specific health claim and billing information. It’s a protection Family’s Berg says is important.
The package of bills also includes a measure that prohibits a person who was served with an order of protection or charged in the death of a victim from controlling the victim’s remains and funeral arrangements. Another piece of the legislation provides access for police departments in the state to web-based training on domestic violence response topics, including investigating current and past incidents, collecting evidence, conducting interviews, and identifying possible criminal charges.
Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Rob Rolison says that although the bill package does cover a lot of critical territory, he intends in the new legislative session to charge the county’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee with revisiting a report the committee had issued, and seeing where there need to be revisions, and advocacy for additions.