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Lawmaker proposes stricter domestic violence law

Assemblywoman Jen Lunsford wants New York state to be tougher on those who commit domestic violence crimes.

Lunsford, D-East Rochester, recently introduced legislation (A.8901) to create a separate category of domestic violence crimes that will be eligible for immediate arrest, cash bail upon arrest, and enhanced criminal sentences upon conviction.

“This bill will provide reassurance that New York takes domestic violence very seriously, as well as have the practical effects of giving victims and survivors time to take safety precautions by making domestic violence

crimes bail eligible and subject to immediate arrest and allowing for enhanced sentences of those convicted of such a crime,” Lunsford wrote in her legislative justification

She proposes adding a new article to the state Penal Law establishing the category of Domestic Violence Crimes. The proposal states that a person commits a domestic violence crime when they intentionally commit or intend to

commit a specified offense against a member of the same family or household and would also include crimes that include offense relating to children, disabled people or the elderly as well as sexual performance by a child.

“Yet, these crimes are often unreported for a variety of reasons, but one that the Legislature can resolve is the feeling that large numbers of victims and survivors report – the criminal justice system doesn’t take this seriously and there is very little the police can do. …A category of “domestic violence crimes” in New York’s criminal law will signal to victims and survivors that we recognize the seriousness and insidiousness of this violence against them as well as signal to potential offenders that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Judges can already consider domestic violence in ordering pre-trial restrictions under bail reform rollbacks approved by the legislature in recent years. Lunsford proposes changing state law to explicitly include any domestic violence as a bail-eligible offense. Those convicted of a domestic violence crime would be eligible for a more strict sentence and judges would be able to require those convicted of domestic violence crimes to require training or counseling programs. Lunsford also proposes making domestic violence crimes a qualifying offense for bail or to be taken into custody.

“This will allow victims and survivors to take action to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and engage with our incredible domestic violence agencies. This also allows law enforcement and pre-trial services to connect defendants with resources. Moreover, it eliminates situations where an act of abuse may be considered only a violation and not subject to arrest by elevating any domestic violence crime to a misdemeanor,” Lunsford wrote. “An increased sentence again demonstrates that New York and our criminal justice system takes domestic violence crimes seriously and that the punishment for a conviction of the same will result in commensurate punishment. Domestic violence victims and survivors have suffered in silence for too long.”

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