Significant changes were enacted with the 2012 Domestic Violence Omnibus Bill and several other laws designed to enhance protections and services for domestic violence, sexual assault and cyberbullying victims. The new laws will also hold offenders more accountable through increased penalties, bail limitations and enhanced DNA collection.
Domestic Violence Omnibus Bill
The 2012 Domestic Violence Omnibus Bill enacts substantial changes that will provide greater safeguards for victims and increase accountability for offenders. The new law increases penalties for certain domestic-violence related actions and repeat offenses, establishes a state-level fatality review team within OPDV, expands the factors that courts can consider when considering bail, and provides increased confidentiality of medical and mental health services used by domestic violence victims and their children:
- Establishes the crime of “aggravated family offense” for offenders who commit certain misdemeanor-level offenses and have a previous conviction for a specified misdemeanor or felony against a family or household member within the past five years (class E felony).
- Establishes a new subdivision of “aggravated harassment in the second degree” for offenders who, with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm, cause physical injury to a family or household member (A misdemeanor).
- Establishes a state-level domestic violence fatality review team within the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence which will bring together state and local domestic violence-related professionals to do in-depth reviews of select intimate partner homicides and periodically report aggregate data and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.
- Allows the court to consider two new factors when determining bail in family offense cases: any violations of an order of protection and the defendant’s history of possession of a firearm.
- Allows victims of domestic violence to have their insurance claims, forms, or billing correspondence for medical and mental health services sent to a confidential address, protecting both the details of such services and the address of the victim from the abuser who is also the insurance policyholder.
- Prevents individuals charged with causing the death of a victim, or who were the subject of an order protecting the deceased, from being able to exercise control over disposition of the deceased victim’s remains, allowing family members to make these decisions and proceed with funeral and burial arrangements.
DNA Testing and Databank Expansion
This law expands the DNA databank by requiring DNA sample collection from anyone convicted of a felony or penal law misdemeanor. In addition, the law expands defendants’ access to DNA testing and databank comparisons both before and after conviction in appropriate circumstances, as well as access to discovery of property and materials after conviction to demonstrate their innocence. This new law will better protect all victims of crime, including domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
Student Cyberbullying Prevention
Under this law, school districts are required to establish policies and procedures to respond to Cyberbullying, harassment, bullying and discrimination. The new law provides a detailed definition of Cyberbullying that includes the use of electronic communication, either on or off school property, to intimidate, threaten or abuse another student. Districts must designate a school official to investigate reports made by students or parents, notify law enforcement, where appropriate, and take prompt responsive action. Schools must develop a bullying prevention strategy, advise all school community members of the school’s policies and post the policies on the school’s website. The law also establishes training requirements for current and new school employees on harassment, cyber/bullying and discrimination.
This law allows New York State Office of Victim Services reimbursement for sexual assault victims to receive a 7-day starter pack of HIV post-exposure prevention treatment, rather than the current coverage for a 3-day pack. Hospitals and sexual assault nurse examiners will be reimbursed directly, eliminating the need for victims to negotiate payment for this additional care. The law also requires hospitals and sexual assault examiners to provide, or refer victims for, medical follow-up, with the victim’s permission to schedule. The law provides immediate and more effective treatment for all sexual assault victims, who may face HIV exposure as a result of their assault.
Counseling for Relatives of Homicide Victims
Under this law, additional relatives of homicide victims will be eligible to receive awards from the Office of Victim Services. Guardians, siblings and step-siblings of a victim who died as a direct result of a crime will now be eligible to receive an award for counseling expenses.
Extended Length of Shelter Stay
This law codifies in Social Services Law the ninety day limit on shelter stays that has been in regulation since 1987. It allows local districts to provide two forty-five day extensions beyond the ninety days for shelter residents who continue to be in need of emergency services and temporary shelter. This change in the law will provide shelters with the flexibility to extend a victim’s stay if additional services are required or if additional time is needed to transition to more permanent housing.
Referee Authority Extended
This law extends, until September 1, 2014, the current use of referees to make determinations about ex-parte order of protection petitions, or petitions where all parties except the applying party failed to appear, during or after established business hours. By allowing referees, in addition to judges, to hear order of protection petitions, and by allowing flexible court hours, this law helps to ensure that victims can obtain orders in a timely fashion.
Membership Camping Contracts
Under this law, individuals with membership camping contracts are allowed to cancel their part of a contract under certain conditions, including domestic violence. If a victim can provide documentation that the other signee of the contract perpetrated domestic violence against them, they can be released from the contract. This law will help reduce a victim’s risk of unsafe contact with an abuser and remove the financial connections that could foster continued economic control or harassment.
This law amends a 2011 provision that changed the transfer of probation in cases where the probationer moves to a different county. Under the new law, in family offense and child support cases, the court now has the discretion to keep the case in the original county or transfer the court case to the county where the probationer has moved. This will allow future court actions, such as a violation of an order of protection, to be heard in either county, eliminating the need for the victim petitioner to travel to the respondent probationer’s new county of residence.For more information and a complete list of domestic violence-related laws passed in 2012 please visit OPDV 2012 Legislative Summary.