PA 08-67—sHB 5875

Judiciary Committee

Public Safety and Security Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE VICTIMS IN FAMILY RELATIONS MATTERS AND THE NOTIFICATION OF A FAMILY OR HOUSEHOLD MEMBER AFTER A MOTOR VEHICLE FATALITY

SUMMARY: This act authorizes the Superior Court, in any family relations matter, to order that the testimony of a party or a child who is a subject of the proceeding be taken outside the physical presence of any other party under certain circumstances.

The act requires that for every motor vehicle accident in which any person is killed, the police officer, agency, or individual who, in the regular course of duty, investigates it must use reasonable efforts to identify and notify a member of the person's family or household of the fatality as soon as practicable after the accident. It specifies what the notification must include. It requires the Police Officer Standards and Training Post Council and each police department, agency, or individual responsible for investigating motor vehicle accidents to adopt a policy for doing so.

The act specifies that (1) it applies to the State Police and (2) policies established or adopted under the act are not regulations under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2008, except for the provision that deals with testimony, which is effective July 1, 2008.

TESTIMONY

The act authorizes the court, in any court proceeding in a family relations matter, to order that the testimony of a party or a child who is a subject of the proceeding be taken outside the physical presence of any other party if (1) a protective order, restraining order, or standing criminal restraining order has been issued on behalf of the party or child and (2) the other party is subject to the protective order or restraining order. The court may do so, within available resources, upon the motion of the attorney for any party.

The order may provide for the use of alternative means to obtain the testimony, including the use of a secure video connection to conduct hearings by videoconference. The order may continue in effect throughout the proceeding. Testimony may be taken in a room other than the courtroom or at another location outside the courthouse or the state. The court must provide for administering an oath before taking the testimony in accordance with Superior Court rules.

The act specifies that it does not limit any party's right to cross-examine a witness whose testimony is taken in a room other than the courtroom.

NOTIFICATION OF FAMILY

Required Notification

The act requires the notification to indicate that the person was killed in a motor vehicle accident. It must also indicate the location of the accident, the location of the person's body, and be made in accordance with the policy the act requires the police to adopt.

Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) Policy

The act requires the POST, by October 1, 2008, to establish a uniform policy that ensures that the notification is made promptly in an appropriate manner. POST must make the policy available to each police department, agency, or individual the act requires to adopt a notification policy.

Law Enforcement Agencies

The act requires that, by January 1, 2009, each police department, agency, or individual responsible for investigating motor vehicle accidents adopt a policy for identifying and notifying a member of a person's family or household about any motor vehicle accident in which a person is killed. When doing so, it requires them to consider the provisions of the uniform policy POST establishes. The policy they adopt must be designed to ensure that notification is made promptly and in an appropriate manner.

BACKGROUND

Family Relations Matters

Family relations matters are Superior Court proceedings affecting or involving such things as:

1. divorces, legal separations, and annulments;

2. alimony, support, custody, and change of name in connection with a divorce, legal separation, or annulment;

3. applications for a protective order based on physical abuse by a family or household member or person in dating relationship;

4. complaints for change of name; and

5. civil support obligations.

Juvenile Matters

Juvenile matters are those involving:

1. child abuse and neglect;

2. status offenders, such as truants and runaways;

3. emancipating minors; and

4. delinquency.

Standing Criminal Restraining Order

By law, courts can issue these orders, in addition to the sentence authorized by law, in certain criminal cases to protect crime victims from future harm. The orders may, among other things, prohibit the offender from restraining, threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the victim, or entering the victim's home. The criminal cases covered are those involving the commission of, or attempt or conspiracy to commit, certain serious crimes.

The court may also issue a standing criminal restraining order when a person is convicted of any crime against a family or household member. In these cases, the court may issue the order for good cause shown and does not have to find the order to be in the best interest of the victim or the public. “Family or household members” are spouses; former spouses; parents and their children; people age 18 or older related by blood or marriage; people age 16 or older either living together or who have lived together; people who have a child together; and people in, or who once were in, a dating relationship (CGS 43a-40e). A “family violence crime” is an incident between family or household members that either causes physical injury or creates fear that physical injury is about to occur, but does not include verbal abuse or arguments.

Restraining and Protective Orders

Restraining and protective orders are court-issued, civil and criminal orders, respectively, typically issued to protect victims of family violence crimes from threatened or further harm. These orders may, among other things, prohibit the respondents from restraining, threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the victim, or entering the victim's home. Restraining orders are generally effective for six months. Protective orders are a condition of bail or other release from custody (CGS 46b-15 and 54-1k).

OLR Tracking: GC: KM: JL: TS