House Passes Domestic Violence Compromise
Sends Comprehensive Bill to the Senate for Final Approval
In April, the House passed its own version of domestic violence legislation (H. 3433) that included recommendations from the House Criminal Domestic Violence Ad Hoc Committee. This group spent over six months studying and investigating ways to improve our laws so that we can better protect victims and their families from abuse. H. 3433 included significant and comprehensive ideas that were not included in the original version of S. 3. To ensure these concepts were given the attention they deserve, House and Senate leaders negotiated for three weeks to iron out differences. An agreement was reached last Thursday morning and S. 3 was immediately placed on the House calendar for debate.
“Our state’s alarming domestic violence statistics are indicative of unworkable, complex laws that fail to protect families from senseless abuse. Increasing penalties and instituting harsher punishments for offenders are a major step in the right direction, but we also must attempt to transform our culture through education and social policy initiatives,”stated Speaker Lucas.
House Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney (District 43-Chester) and Representative Shannon Erickson (District 124-Beaufort) remained focused on this issue and worked tirelessly with Senators Larry Martin, Greg Hembree, and Brad Hutto to reach an agreement. Attorney General Alan Wilson also played an instrumental role by encouraging all parties to coalesce around a comprehensive solution.
“The House’s unwavering commitment to reform our domestic violence laws is evident in our leadership’s ability to compromise.” Speaker Lucas continued. “This agreement could not have been reached without Chairman Delleney, Representative Shannon Erickson, and several others who fervently negotiated to give added protections to victims, crack down on offenders, and institute a cultural change to put an end to domestic abuse. As the bill heads over to the Senate Chamber, I am confident that our colleagues will uphold our agreement and help send this bill to the Governor’s desk for signature.”
Provisions Included in the Compromise:
- Changes the current penalty occurrence based model to a hybrid approach that considers degree of injury, number of occurrences, and possible aggravating circumstances. New categories: Domestic Violence High and Aggravated Nature (DVHAN), 1stDegree, 2ndDegree, and 3rd Degree.
- Amends the definition of “moderate bodily injury” to create a more understandable and useable definition for prosecutors.
- Automatic gun bans for DVHAN, 1stdegree, and 2nd degree where moderate bodily injury is present. Judicial discretion for 3rd and 2nd degree where moderate bodily injury is not present.
- Extends time period for a bond hearing to ensure a judge has all necessary information.
- Creates a Domestic Violence Advisory Committee to study domestic violence cases. This Committee would make recommendations to the General Assembly. The Committee is made up of many directors of state agencies.
- Batterer’s Treatment Programs would be selected and approved by the prosecuting agency, as opposed to the current model with the Department of Social Services (DSS) approving the programs.
- Adds domestic violence education to the curriculum for compressive health classes required in middle school.
- Allows judges to proceed with the case without the presence of the victim.
- Permits DSS to study a voucher system for child care to allow the victim to appear in court.