Contact: Amy Schwartz-Wallace, (585) 454-4060
Governor Signs Bill that Ensures Victims of Domestic Violence Are Not Held Accountable for Abusers’ Violations of Orders of Protection
Empire Justice Center today expressed great pleasure at the news that Governor Cuomo had signed this critical and very necessary bill into law.
“For many years victims of domestic violence who were the protected parties on an order of protection were advised that they can “violate” the order of protection issued for their benefit. Periodically, we would even become aware of a criminal prosecution. However, in late 2012, we started hearing terrible stories about this happening much more regularly across the state. Stories about victims being arrested for ‘violating’ their own order of protection because the abuser harassed them while dropping a child off for visitation or stalked them to a public place,” said Amy Schwartz, Senior Attorney in the Rochester office of Empire Justice Center. “When this started happening, we knew that the time had come to do something to stop these inappropriate and bad practices so that victims did not have to fear calling upon law enforcement or the courts to enforce the very orders issued to protect them.”
“This was such an egregious problem, that when we brought it to the attention of Assemblymember Weinstein and Senator Robach, who ultimately sponsored the bill, they jumped at the opportunity to fix it,” said Kristin Brown Lilley, Vice President for Policy & Government Relations at Empire Justice. “We are pleased, but not at all surprised, that Governor Cuomo agreed that this new law was a necessary step to ensure that the individuals our justice system sought to protect are not further victimized.”
“This will make a tremendous difference to our clients who have been reluctant to come forward to report violations of orders of protection for fear that the system will turn on them rather than help protect them. Now the system can focus its energy where it should– holding offenders accountable for their abusive behavior,” said Amy Christensen, Deputy Director, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.
Civil and criminal orders of protection are a critical tool for victims of domestic violence statewide. Despite their undeniable importance, orders of protection cannot insure a victim’s safety or guarantee that abuse will end. In fact, the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when that victim takes steps to leave the relationship. Indeed, for some victims, stalking, violence or other retaliatory conduct can escalate in the wake of court or police intervention.
The new law (A.6547-b/S.5605) will provide clear language on all civil and family offense-related criminal orders of protection that a protected party may not be civilly or criminally liable for violations of the order of protection issued on their behalf. In addition to the notice provisions, amendments made to the Criminal Procedure Law, Domestic Relations Law and the Family Court Act will prevent imposition of liability upon protected parties. Finally, the new law also makes clear that the protected party’s contact or communication with the enjoined party will not impact the order’s validity and that the order may only be modified or terminated by the court.
“By making it clear that domestic violence offenders are alone accountable for their own contemptuous and manipulative conduct, this law will ensure that New York no longer tolerates misuse of the justice system against the very victims it was designed to protect,” Schwartz concluded. “We applaud the Governor and the bill sponsors for their speedy and decisive action.”