HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the General Assembly to consider an important set of bills to protect victims of domestic violence and work to reduce incidences of this crime.
These bills would increase protections for victims of domestic violence by developing more risk assessment tools for setting bail, increasing law enforcement support when delivering Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders, forbidding firearms possession for those convicted of domestic violence and extending PFAs for incarcerated individuals.
“I have signed legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws and to support victims of spousal abuse; I’ve signed a Father’s Day pledge to end gender violence; and I’ve stood with students, educators and lawmakers to build on the ‘It’s on Us’ campaign,” Wolf said.
“Those efforts are making a difference and these Senate bills are the logical next steps to provide further protections for victims of domestic violence, and tools for judges and law enforcement to aid in protecting individuals against this heinous crime. There’s no such thing as doing too much to protect and support victims of domestic violence.”
“On behalf of the thousands of victims the Office of Victim Advocate serves on a daily basis and those who may come to us later, we implore the legislature to pass these initiatives that will not only save lives, but [also] will have a meaningful impact on the reduction of domestic violence and its impact on survivors,” Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania victim advocate, said.
Summaries of the various domestic violence legislation include:
SB 449 (Bartolotta) provides additional assessment tools for Magisterial District judges in cases of domestic violence to determine bail for a defendant based on the risk posed to a victim.
SB 500 (Vulakovich) provides for a law enforcement official to accompany a victim to his or her residence before or during the service of a PFA order.
SB 501 (Killion) requires that a defendant relinquish all firearms, other weapons and ammunition upon entry of a Final PFA order; eliminates the third party safe-keeping provision for firearms currently described in Pennsylvania’s PFA Act; and requires that a defendant convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence turn in their firearms to law enforcement within 24 hours of the conviction.
SB 502 (McGarrigle) allows judges to extend the terms of a PFA order or create an entirely new one if the order is set to expire or has expired while a defendant is incarcerated. The victim would not be required to show that the defendant engaged in a new act of domestic violence that indicates a continued risk of harm.
SB 919 (Haywood, co-sponsored by Sens. Bartolotta and Schwank) allows a resident of a county housing authority to request relocation if they or someone affiliated with them has experienced domestic or sexual violence. The resident must certify their status as a victim of domestic violence.
For information on the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, visit http://www.pcadv.org/. The organization’s domestic hotline, 800-799-7233, is available 24 hours a day in both English and Spanish.