2009 New York State Domestic Violence and Related Laws
The Following Bills Have Been Signed Into Law by the Governor:
Omnibus Domestic Violence Bill (A.9017 Weinstein/S.5031-A
Makes numerous changes to various state laws, including:
- requires judges to state on the record how domestic violence and/or child abuse were factored into custody and visitation decisions
- strengthens domestic violence training for attorneys for children (law guardians)
- requires law enforcement to forward domestic incident reports to probation and parole officers
- provides for certain violation-level harassment convictions to remain unsealed and accessible to law enforcement, thereby, providing a more complete history of abuse
- protects victims of sexual assault committed by a family or household member by designating certain low-level sexual assault crimes as family offenses, requiring that mandatory arrest provisions apply and allowing victims to petition Family Court for orders of protection, which would be required to be filed with the statewide registry
Signed: September 16, 2009 Chapter 476.
Effective: multiple provisions with varying effective dates
Employment Discrimination (A.755 Paulin-A / S.958-B Johnson)
Establishes victims of domestic violence as a protected class in the employment provisions of the NYS human rights law. The new law prevents an employer from firing or refusing to hire an individual based on their status as a victim of domestic violence and prevents discrimination in compensation or in the terms, conditions or privileges of employment.
Effective: July 7, 2009 Chapter 80
Divorce/Assets and Benefits Protection (A.2970 Weinstein / S.2974 Sampson)
Requires orders to be issued by the court, at the beginning of any divorce proceeding, to prevent both parties from incurring unreasonable debts, dissipating assets (including personal property, real estate, retirement funds, etc.), or removing a party or the children from health or life insurance policies.
Effective: September 1, 2009 Chapter 72
NYS Colleges Address Domestic Violence/Stalking (A.2714 Glick / S.2296 Stavisky)
Requires NYS colleges to address domestic violence and stalking by providing incoming students with information on prevention, laws, penalties and the college’s response to any incidents or offenses, including assistance for victims. The bill also requires a review of campus policies and procedures for educating the school community, including personnel, on reporting of incidents during investigations, referring complaints to proper authorities and counseling victims.
Effective: April 7, 2009 Chapter 13
Name Change Protections (A.3468 Scarborough / S.4334 Kruger)
Extends protections for individuals seeking a name change. The NYS Civil Rights Law allowed a judge to seal court documents and other records associated with a name change, and to waive the requirement that the change be published in a local paper, if the court found that disclosing this information would jeopardize the safety of the person requesting the change. The new law requires the judge to order the sealing and safeguarding of all information from the time the case is opened, rather than waiting until a final decision is reached.
Effective: July 7, 2009 Chapter 83
Unemployment Insurance Benefits (A.8273 Meng / S.4110-A Onorato)
Makes several amendments to the Labor Law, including extending unemployment benefits in periods of high unemployment and providing benefits to individuals who separate from employment for a “compelling family reason.” A compelling family reason includes domestic violence and expands prior law, which covered victims, to include cases where the safety of an immediate family member is at risk.
Effective: May 20, 2009 Chapter 35
Criminal Mischief Amendment (A.2006 Weinstein / S.4306 Schneiderman)
Amends Chapter 601 of 2008. The interpretation of "property of another" made prosecuting criminal mischief charges difficult because individuals could assert the defense that, as one of the owners, they were entitled to damage joint property. Chapter 601 clarified that an individual who damages property that is co-owned with another person can be prosecuted for criminal mischief. The law included a requirement of explicit consent from a co-owner in order for the other owner to believe that s/he has a right to damage the property. A.2006 removes the requirement of explicit consent to allow for circumstances where jointly-owned property may be destroyed or discarded, based on consent that is implied rather than expressed.
Effective: May 29, 2009 Chapter 45
Mandatory Arrest Extension (A.156-B /S.56 - Article VII Budget Bill)
Extends the mandatory arrest provision for family offenses for two more years, until September 1, 2011.
Effective: April 7, 2009 Chapter 56
Custody/Registries Check – Amendment (A.2004-A Weinstein / S.5697 Sampson)
Makes technical and procedural changes to Chapter 595 of the Laws of 2008, which requires judges to review reports of the sex offender registry, the statewide computerized registry of warrants and orders of protection, and any related Article 10 decisions from child abuse and neglect proceedings, before issuing a permanent (or successive temporary) order of custody or visitation. The law did not require these checks for an initial temporary order of custody, however, checks were to be completed when a subsequent order was issued after more than one month had passed since the first temporary order. A.2004-A addresses the implementation challenges of checking all three databases for every custody or visitation case by lengthening to ninety days the time allowed between reviews of databases before issuing a successive temporary order of custody or visitation. In addition, in signing Chapter 595 in 2008, the Governor noted the difficulties with name-based record checks of outstanding criminal warrants. To address this concern, A.2004-A limits the required warrant check to Family Court warrants.
Effective:August 11, 2009 Chapter 295
NYS Office of Victim Services (OVS) Awards/Children (A.8060 Markey / S.3402 Hassell-Thompson)
Clarifies that the NYS Office of Victim Services (OVS) may make certain awards to child victims, including compensation for certain personal property damage, expenses of transportation to court, and counseling expenses, even in the absence of physical injury. This is a technical amendment that clarifies conflicting language regarding child victims in the Executive Law and codifies what has been OVS practice.
Effective: July 28, 2009 Chapter 272
Divorce/Health Insurance (A.7561 Bradley / S.2851-A Sampson)
Repeals section 177 of the Domestic Relations Law, which was intended to insure that divorcing spouses are made aware of the potential loss of health care coverage, depending on the terms of their insurance plan, when that coverage had been obtained through one spouse. A.7561 creates a new section 255, which provides for notification of the health insurance provisions to both parties, but gives judges greater discretion in insuring the time and method of notification.
Effective: October 9, 2009 Chapter 143
NYS Office of Victim Services (OVS) Awards (A.6532-B Ortiz / S.4405-A Hassell-Thompson)
This legislation would amend the Executive Law to more broadly define "necessary court appearance" for purposes of victim reimbursement. Under existing law, the NYS Office of Victim Services (OVS) is authorized to make awards to cover the transportation costs associated with a crime victim attending a "necessary court appearance in connection with the prosecution of specified crimes." OVS interprets this language to mean those appearances requested and considered necessary by the prosecutor. This bill would amend the law to more broadly define "necessary court appearance" to include any part of trial from arraignment through sentencing, including grand jury hearings and pre- and post-trial hearings, and, in the case of incarceration, parole hearings.
The Governor’s veto message noted that, while the motivations behind the bill were noble, the law already allows reimbursement for all appearances at which a victim’s presence is necessary, including grand jury presentations, pre-trial hearings and the trial. The message also expressed concern that the bill’s expansion of the number and types of court appearances that could be reimbursed could overburden OVS’ staff capacity to process claims and increase compensation costs.
Address Confidentiality Program (A.2858-A Weinstein / S.3580-A Adams)
A.2858-A would establish within the Department of State an address confidentiality program to allow victims of domestic violence to designate the Secretary of State as their agent for receipt of mail and service of process.
The Governor’s veto message cited the laudable goal of this legislation, but noted several considerations that would potentially create substantial costs for the State, with no appropriation provided in the 2009-2010 budget. The legislation requires that a record be maintained of each piece of mail sent and, unlike other states with similar programs, A.2858 does not restrict forwarding to first class mail. Based on the Department of State’s estimate of victim participation, and the staff and equipment that would be needed, the proposed address confidentiality program could cost approximately $1.4