Maryland victim’s relatives support domestic violence law

Relatives of a Maryland murder victim have testified in favor of new legislation that would permit judges to proceed with psychological evaluations during protective order proceedings. Those family members testified on behalf of a woman who was the victim of domestic violence in September. The victim was reportedly stabbed five times at her home. The suspect in the case was the father of the woman’s children. The two girls are now motherless.

Current law requires a person who is seeking domestic violence relief to file a protective order. Then, if they want to request a psychological evaluation, they must come back to the courtroom and file for the evaluation separately. A new bill in the state legislature would change that process, allowing judges to order such an evaluation during the first proceeding. Judges would be allowed to order these evaluations if the person displays symptoms of a mental illness and has also acted in a dangerous way toward other people.

Supporters say that the new proposal would eliminate waiting periods that cause many victims to change their minds about filing for a protective order. By removing the requirement to file two documents, the court could better support victims of domestic violence because judges now have more options. Mental health advocates, on the other hand, say the law is unfair because a link has not yet been drawn between mental illness and actual violence.

The offender in this case had a criminal history of abuse, having pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in a previous case. He was released in June 2013 after serving six months in federal custody for a parole violation.

Victims of domestic violence should not be inhibited by the courts. Protective orders should be accessible and effective. Qualified attorneys can provide victims of physical abuse with more information about protective order options.

Source:  Carroll County Times, “Annapolis murder victim’s family testifies for tougher domestic violence laws” Sara Blumberg, Jan. 16, 2014