Lawmakers Approve Domestic Violence Bills

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill designed to aid the prosecution in domestic violence cases, establishing a law that identifies strangulation as a traumatic condition that can lead to felony charges.

The legislation recognizes choking as a potential stepping stone to more severe violence. The bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Christine Kehoe of San Diego, said the clarification was needed because it is difficult to prosecute cases when there is little physical evidence.

“What happens is that strangulation is not prosecuted even though it is a precursor to homicide,” she said.

Previously, defense lawyers could argue that choking is little more than a slap because victims may not have any visible injury by the time they get to court.

Most of the time, strangulation isn’t about physically harming someone, Kehoe said, but rather asserting power or control. That is especially true in relationships marred by domestic abuse, she said.

“This is a control issue,” she said. “They’re saying, `You are at my mercy.’ That is why we want to have strangulation be charged, so it can be prosecuted in court.”

Existing law does not classify strangulation as a serious criminal offense, and police officers often do not receive the training necessary to identify a victim’s subtle symptoms, said Gael Strack, chief executive officer of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, a San Diego-based organization that sponsored the legislation.

The law will provide consistent, statewide training on how to identify, investigate and prosecute a strangulation case, she said.

It also will bridge gaps in current legislation designed to protect women, said Casey Gwinn, president of the alliance, which provides technical assistance, training and consulting for a national network of centers for victims of family violence.

It gives prosecutors and police officers a tool to treat strangulation as a serious crime when the victim survives. Often, the victim isn’t aware of how serious the crime is, he said.

“When a woman has been strangled by her partner, she is 800 percent more likely to be killed,” he said.

The alliance decided to seek the legislation after a woman was killed in San Diego. While she had a restraining order against her husband, charges brought against him for strangulation had been dismissed.

“It became clear that we needed more than what we had,” Strack said. “This is going to save lives.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • Laszlo Mohacsi

    Ok! Good Job!

  • anonymous

    Now, let’s come up with a new set of laws to help those of us who already have restraining orders and need help enforcing them! Having a restraining order is pointless. No one will enforce it. I have had police tell me that because I wasn’t hurt, they won’t enforce the order. Totally defeats the point of having the order to begin with, right? These laws are pointless because no one will enforce them. It is sad. I have no faith in our system.

  • Domestic Violence in Relationships » Blog Archive » Lawmakers Approve Domestic Violence Bills

    […] The Legislature resoundingly approved three bills to protect victims of domestic violence and sent them to Gov. Jerry Brown for approval in the flurry of action at the Capitol before lawmakers began summer recess. Domestic Violence – Yahoo! News Search Results […]

  • Ant

    For starters, I know this is an AP story. Interesting observation.

    “when an attacker chokes his victim.”
    ” isn’t covered by a protective order once he serves his time.”
    “takes time and money and risks her safety”

    Guess men can’t be victims of Domestic Violence

  • Max

    Those bills are still not followed and usually have loopholes.

  • David

    I am all for supporting laws that protect victims of DV. My concern is when its used against people. I listened to two women discussing a plot to set up their ex-husband by having him come to the house, then calling the cops saying he was stalking them and getting a Rest. Order. Then having him meet them at a store or restaurant and calling the cops on him. They were plotting this in the mediator’s conference room at the Sacramento Family Court House. We need stronger laws against people filing false claims. You lie in court about anything, you go to jail for a long time! This includes mothers over children.

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