PA 12-114—sHB 5548

Judiciary Committee

Public Safety and Security Committee

Government Administration and Elections Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

SUMMARY: This act gives victims greater support from the courts, victim services and advocates, and law enforcement agencies by:

1. specifying additional family violence crimes, court procedures, and victim protections;

2. giving crime victims and victim advocates access to more information;

3. expanding the definition of “trauma-informed care” in family violence cases;

4. requiring police departments to adopt model family violence policies; and

5. creating the Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council to evaluate law enforcement policies and procedures on family violence.

It also requires the Office of State-Wide Emergency Telecommunications to study the cost, feasibility, and public safety considerations associated with redesigning the statewide Enhanced 9-1-1 system to allow individuals and responders to communicate by text message or other mobile device. It must submit a report of its findings to the Judiciary and Public Safety and Security committees by January 15, 2013.

Finally, it makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2012, except the provisions on (1) trauma-informed care are effective July 1, 2012 and (2) the family violence governing council and E 9-1-1 study are effective upon passage.

2 — DEFINITION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE

By law, “family violence” means (1) an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, or (2) an act of threatened violence between family members that causes its victim to fear imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault. The act expands the definition of “family or household member” by eliminating the age restriction on people (1) related by blood or marriage or (2) living together or having lived together in the past. Prior law limited the former to people age 18 or older and the latter to people age 16 or older.

It leaves unchanged the law's designation of others as family or household members. These are: (1) spouses and former spouses; (2) parents and children; (3) people who have a child in common, regardless of whether they are or have been married or have lived together at any time; and (4) people in, or who have recently been in, dating relationships.

2 & 10-12 — EXTENSION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE CRIMES

By law, family violence crimes are those that, in addition to their essential elements, also include a family violence component. The act specifies that family violence crimes include stalking and a pattern of threatening. It also expands the crimes of 1st degree threatening and stalking.

10 — First and Second Degree Threatening

The act creates a new form of 1st degree threatening. A person commits the crime when he or she commits 2nd degree threatening (see below) and uses, or is armed with and threatens to use, displays, or represents that he or she possesses a pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle, machine gun, or other firearm.

By law, a person commits 2nd degree threatening when he or she, by physical threat, intentionally (1) places, or attempts to place, another person in fear of serious physical injury; (2) threatens to commit a violent crime intending to terrorize another person; or (3) threatens to commit such a violent crime in disregard of the risk of terrorizing the victim.

First degree threatening is a class D felony; 2nd degree threatening is a class A misdemeanor (see Table on Penalties).

The act specifies that defendants can be charged with both 1st and 2nd degree threatening based on the same conduct and transaction but can only be convicted of one or the other.

12 — 1st and 2nd Degree Stalking

The act broadens the conduct that constitutes 1st and 2nd degree stalking.

Under prior law, a person committed 2nd degree stalking when, with intent to cause another person to fear for his or her physical safety, he or she willfully and repeatedly followed or lay in wait for him or her, causing that person to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the physical safety of another. By law, a person is guilty of 1st degree stalking when, after a conviction for 1st or 2nd degree stalking he or she commits 2nd degree stalking.

The act eliminates the previous definition of 2nd degree stalking. Instead, a person commits the crime by (1) knowingly engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his, her, or a third person's physical safety or (2) intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear that his or her employment, business, or career is threatened. In the latter case, the actor must (1) telephone, appear at, or initiate communication with the victim at the victim's workplace and (2) have previously and clearly been told to stop. The act excludes situations under which the actor's conduct is protected by the United States or Connecticut constitutions.

The act defines “course of conduct” as two or more acts, including those in which a person directly, indirectly, or through a third party, by any action, method, device, or means (1) follows, lies in wait for, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, harasses or communicates with, or sends unwanted gifts to, a person or (2) interferes with the victim's property.

By law, 2nd degree stalking is a class A misdemeanor. Because 1st degree stalking is committed when a person has been previously convicted of 2nd degree stalking, the act's changes also serve to broaden that statute. By law, 1st degree stalking is a class D felony.

1, 3-7, 18 — JUDICIAL BRANCH CHANGES

Court Orders to Protect Victims

Civil Restraining Orders. By law, family violence victims who have been subjected to (1) continuous threats of present physical pain or injury, (2) continuous stalking, or (3) a pattern of threatening may apply in civil court for a restraining order. Such orders are intended to protect victims, their children, family pets, and others (see BACKGROUND). They may include provisions that establish temporary child custody arrangements and prohibit the perpetrator from returning to the family or victim's home or coming within a designated distance of him or her.

Under prior law, civil restraining orders expired six months after they were issued unless the court found that granting the protected person additional time was necessary. The act allows these orders to remain in effect for one year. The protected person still has the option to request an extension.

Criminal Protective Orders. By law, the court may issue criminal protective orders against a person arrested for a family violence crime. The content of such orders can cover the range of limitations permissible under civil protective orders. But the act's designation of stalking and threatening as family violence crimes allows courts to issue criminal protective orders for victims when the perpetrator is arrested for either of these crimes.

Court Clerks. The law assigns court clerks various administrative duties in protective and restraining order proceedings. These include sending, within 48 hours of issuance, copies of restraining or protective orders or the information they contain to the victim and law enforcement agency or agencies for the town or towns where the defendant lives and the victim lives or works.

The act requires clerks, at a victim's request, to send, by fax or other means, a copy of the order, including one issued ex parte (without a court hearing) or its contents to any educational institution he or she attends, including a public or private elementary or secondary school; regional vocational technical school; or higher education institution in Connecticut. When notice is sent to a higher education institution, its president and any special police force must receive copies.

Court Records Indicating Family Violence Convictions

By law, courts must note in a convicted person's court files if he or she has been convicted of certain family violence crimes. The act expands this requirement by adding the following crimes. They become family violence crimes when victims are family or household members:

1. assault of a pregnant woman, terminating pregnancy;

2. 2nd degree threatening;

3. 1st and 2nd degree reckless endangerment;

4. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree strangulation;

5. aggravated sexual assault of a minor;

6. disorderly conduct; and

7. 1st and 2nd degree harassment.

Family Violence Response and Intervention Unit Reports

By law, counselors employed in a court's family violence intervention unit are required to provide judges with written or oral reports, including recommendations for disposing of cases, on or before the date on which the parties first appear in court. The act requires that the counselors' reports indicate if the parties are also parties to a case pending on the family relations docket. These cases include divorce, child custody, and other civil family matters.

Office of Victim Services Restitution

The law permits the Office of Victim Services or a supervising victim compensation commissioner to order restitution for qualified crime victims. Restitution includes medical, psychiatric, psychological, and social and rehabilitative services.

Prior eligibility rules restricted these services to (1) victims of child abuse, sexual assault, or domestic abuse and their families and (2) family members of homicide victims. The act authorizes the office to provide these services to children who have witnessed domestic violence, whether or not they are related to the victim.

Conditions of Release Criteria

The law requires the Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division (CSSD) to establish written, uniform, weighted criteria for releasing an accused after an arrest. Prior criteria were developed to determine the least restrictive release conditions necessary to ensure the arrestee's appearance in court. The act modifies the criteria to require that release conditions also be sufficient to reasonably ensure that a release will not endanger any other person. This change affects release conditions courts impose on all arrestees, not just those arrested for family violence crimes.

Eligibility for Pretrial Family Violence Education Program

The act further restricts eligibility for the pretrial family violence education program. Existing law excludes those charged with (1) class A, B, or C felonies or unclassified felonies that carry a possible prison term of more than 10 years and (2) unless good cause is shown, class D felonies or unclassified felonies with a possible prison term of more than five years. The act requires those charged with lesser offenses (i. e. , misdemeanors and felonies punishable by imprisonment for less than five years) to show “good cause” for participation when their victims suffered serious physical injuries (i. e. , those that created a substantial risk of death or caused disfigurement, serious health impairment, or serious loss or impairment of any bodily organ).

By law, the two-year program serves people charged with, but not convicted of, certain family violence crimes. Courts can allow someone to participate if the he or she is a first-time offender who has not been granted accelerated rehabilitation for commission of a family violence crime. Courts must dismiss the charges against those who successfully complete the program and erase records related to the underlying offense.

8, 9, 23 & 24 — LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

Reporting Electronic or Telephonic Communications and Prosecuting Violators

The act permits any person with a protective or restraining order who receives a telephone call or electronic communication that he or she believes constitutes a criminal violation of the order to contact the law enforcement agency for the town in which (1) he or she lives or received the communication or (2) the communication was initiated.

Under the act, the agency contacted must (1) accept the complaint; (2) prepare a report, giving the complainant a copy; and (3) investigate the incident. If necessary, that agency must coordinate its investigation with other law enforcement agencies, and, at the victim's request, notify the law enforcement agency for the town where the victim lives.

Any defendant charged with this type of violation may be arraigned in the geographic area (GA) court where the victim could have filed the complaint. Prosecutions may be pursued in any of these GAs or corresponding judicial districts.

23 & 24 — Trauma- Informed Care

By law, police officers and family violence intervention unit counselors must give family violence victims contact information about counselors who are trained to provide trauma-informed care. Existing law describes this as services directed by a thorough understanding of the neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of trauma and violence on a person. The act adds that the services be delivered by a regional family violence organization that employs, or provides referrals to, counselors who:

1. make available to family violence victims resources on trauma exposure and its impact and treatment;

2. engage in efforts to strengthen the resilience and protective factors of victims of family violence who are affected by, and vulnerable to, trauma;

3. emphasize continuity of care and collaboration among organizations that provide services to children; and

4. maintain professional relationships for referrals and consultations with programs and people with expertise in trauma-informed care.

19 — POLICE POLICIES IN FAMILY VIOLENCE CASES

Operational Guidelines

Existing law requires law enforcement agencies to develop, in conjunction with the Criminal Justice Division, and implement specific operational guidelines for arrest policies in family violence matters. Beginning October 1, 2012, the act requires the guidelines to, at a minimum, meet the model standards the act establishes.

Model Law Enforcement Guidelines, Policies, and Procedures

The act establishes a model law enforcement policy. The policy must (1) be based on a task-force-developed, statewide policy submitted to the legislature in 2012 and (2) provide police professionals with model guidelines, policies, and procedures for dealing with family violence incidents. The act also creates the Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council (see below) to consider and recommend policy changes.

The act requires the chairperson of the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) to provide notice of updates to the model policy adopted by the council during the prior calendar year. The update must go to (1) the chief law enforcement officer of each municipality with its own police department and its law enforcement instructor and (2) the commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP). The first update is due January 15, 2013.

Beginning July 1, 2013, the act requires each law enforcement agency to submit an annual report to DESPP in a form the commissioner requires, concerning the agency's compliance with the model policies on domestic violence.

25 — FAMILY VIOLENCE MODEL POLICY GOVERNING COUNCIL

The act establishes a 19-member Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council and charges it with:

1. evaluating policies and procedures law enforcement agencies use when responding to family violence incidents and violations of restraining and protective orders,

2. reviewing and updating the statewide model law enforcement policy on family violence described above, and

3. evaluating the accuracy of data collected by DESPP and CSSD.

Members and Administrative Procedures

Under the act, council members are:

1. one person each appointed by the House Speaker and minority leader, Senate President pro tempore and minority leader, and the governor (the legislative leaders can appoint legislators);

2. a municipal police officer with experience in domestic violence training, appointed by the House majority leader;

3. a victim of domestic violence, appointed by the Senate majority leader;

4. a representative of POST with experience in domestic violence training, appointed by the council's chairperson;

5. a representative of the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, appointed by the chief state's attorney;

6. a representative of the Office of the Chief Public Defender, appointed by the chief public defender;

7. a representative of the Office of the Victim Advocate, appointed by the victim advocate;

8. a representative of the Division of State Police with experience in domestic violence training and one commanding officer in the division, appointed by the DESPP commissioner;

9. a Superior Court judge assigned to hear criminal matters, appointed by the chief court administrator;

10. a domestic violence victim, victim advocate with courtroom experience in domestic violence matters, and representative of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Inc. , (CCADV) each appointed by the CCADV executive director;

11. a representative of state legal aid programs, appointed by the executive director of the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut; and

12. a representative of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, appointed by the association president.

Members must be appointed by July 1, 2012. Each serves a four-year term and may be reappointed or continue to serve until a successor is appointed and qualified. The respective appointing authorities fill vacancies.

Council members must choose two members to serve as co-chairpersons. These officials must schedule the first meeting, which must be held no later than 60 days after the act's passage. The act requires the Public Safety and Security Committee's administrative staff to serve as the council's staff.

The act requires the council to submit annual reports to the Judiciary and Public Safety and Security committees beginning January 15, 2013. The reports must contain information about the effectiveness of the model law enforcement policy on family violence and amendments to the policy adopted during the year.

BACKGROUND

Protective and Restraining Orders

Connecticut courts can issue a variety of protective and restraining orders to protect crime victims who fear for their safety. These orders may, among other things, prohibit criminal defendants or respondents from restraining, threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the victim or entering the victim's home.

Restraining orders are issued by civil courts. The court can make appropriate orders to protect the applicant and dependent children or others, including issuing temporary child custody or visitation orders. The court can issue an immediate ex parte order (without notice to the respondent) as appropriate if the applicant alleges immediate and present physical danger.

A protective order is issued at the time of arraignment during a criminal proceeding. These orders are usually recommended by either the family relations office or the state's attorney and remain in effect from the date they are issued until the disposition of the criminal case. In some cases, a protective order can be removed prior to the resolution of the underlying case being settled.

Standing criminal restraining orders are orders that are issued at the end of a criminal case.

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