Several laws were enacted in 2011 that will provide greater protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, including laws addressing firearms, orders of protection, address confidentiality and sexual abuse of minors. Additional laws enhanced the state’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault by expanding training requirements and extending eligibility for compensation.
Domestic Violence Firearm ProtectionThis law establishes which offenses and what types of relationships meet the federal definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” in federal firearms prohibition law, allowing NYS to report matching convictions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Individuals whose names are in the NICS database are barred from purchasing guns, including rifles and shotguns.
Law Enforcement Policies and Judicial Training on Sexual Assault Crimes
The NYS Municipal Police Training Council, in consultation with rape crisis centers, is now required to develop and disseminate policies and procedures for new and veteran police officers on the investigation of, and intervention in, sexual assault crimes. Education and training in specific areas related to enforcement of sexual assault laws will be included. The law also requires the Office of Court Administration to provide training for judges on sexual assault crimes.
Address Confidentiality Program
A substitute address program will be established within the NYS Department of State (DOS) to allow domestic violence victims, who meet certification requirements, to designate the Secretary of State as their agent for receiving mail and service of process. Under the program, the DOS will forward first class mail to a participant for four years. The law also establishes under what conditions the DOS may grant a waiver to a state or local agency that can demonstrate the need to be exempted from the requirement to accept a substitute address. (The program will not become effective until June 23, 2012.)
Crime Victim Awards for Victims of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood CirculationThis law allows the NYS Office of Victim Services (OVS) to make awards to victims of the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, even if the victim did not sustain a physical injury. Victims of the physical injury crimes of strangulation, first and second degree, were already eligible for crime victim compensation.
Final Order of Protection at Sentencing
This law amends the criminal procedure law to clarify that a final order of protection will be issued at sentencing, rather than conviction. Any temporary order issued will remain in effect until the final order is issued at sentencing.
Employee Sexual Contact With Inmates/Parolees
The penal law was amended to strengthen the lack of consent provision in certain sex offense cases, clarifying that criminal liability for engaging in sexual conduct with an inmate or parolee applies to anyone who is a Department of Corrections and Community Supervision employee (including Parole) or an employee of a state agency that frequently provides services to inmates within correctional facilities, including the Office of Mental Health. The law also applies to certain employees of the Office of Children and Family Services who work in an OCFS residential facility.
Social Services Definition of Victim
The Social Services definition of “victim of domestic violence” was amended to include the category of “intimate partner,” which was established in the criminal procedure law and the Family Court Act in 2008 (Chapter 326). The social services law definition has always applied to a victim of any violation of the penal law, but has listed examples of possible offenses. This new law explicitly adds sexual misconduct, forcible touching, sexual abuse, stalking, criminal mischief, strangulation and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation as additional examples.
Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking
The Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking was extended for two years, until September 1, 2013. The Task Force, co-chaired by the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, was established to determine human trafficking prevalence, identify services available to victims, develop recommendations to strengthen prevention, improve both prosecution of traffickers and assistance to victims, establish interagency protocols and collaboration, evaluate and make recommendations on the effectiveness of training for police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and service providers and evaluate the State’s progress in preventing human trafficking and protecting victims.
Sexual Abuse, First Degree
This bill amended the crime of sexual abuse in the first degree to include acts where a person is twenty-one years old or older and subjects another person who is less than thirteen years old to sexual contact. Mandatory Arrest Extension
Once again, the mandatory arrest provision for family offenses was extended for two more years, until September 1, 2013.
Judicial Hearing Officer Pilot Program Extension
The use of judicial hearing officers for ex-parte orders of protection and orders of protection where the respondent has defaulted in the Family Courts was extended for an additional three years in the seventh and eighth judicial districts.
Senior Center-based Domestic Violence Prevention
This bill directs the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence to develop and promote senior center-based domestic violence prevention programs.