Governor LePage Announces Details of Domestic Violence Bills

February 22, 2012

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Contact: Adrienne Bennett (207) 287-2531

AUGUSTA – A day after Domestic Violence Awareness Day was celebrated at the State House, Governor Paul LePage introduced legislation which focuses on strengthening Maine laws regarding domestic violence. Making the announcement at the Hall of Flags, the Governor was joined by Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris, House Democratic Leader Emily Cain and Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence Executive Director Julia Colpitts.

“The passage of domestic violence legislation will have a profound impact for victims. I commend our legislators for making this issue a priority,” said Governor LePage. “Our laws should protect victims by deterring abusers and send a message that this violent behavior will not be tolerated.”

Two bills presented Wednesday highlight changes to the Maine Bail code and ensure funds are distributed to the Victims’ Compensation Program. The Governor’s first proposed law seeks to amend the Maine bail code in order to protect victims of domestic violence. This law makes a number of changes including stating bail must be determined by a judge, not a bail commissioner, in cases of crimes involving domestic violence in which an aggravated assault, a sexual assault, a violation of a protection order or the strangulation of another person has been charged by a law enforcement officer.

Anticipating details of the Governor’s legislation, nearly one hundred people including legislators eagerly listened Wednesday. Many legislators, including Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, have garnered support for these bills already. Rep. Cain has offered to be the lead sponsor of the bill which aims to amend the bail code. “While Maine has one of the lowest murder rates in the nation, year after year, over half of those murders are directly related to domestic violence,” said Rep. Cain. “Only this past week, a Bath woman was nearly stabbed to death by her live-in boyfriend. News reports said she was saved only when the knife blade broke. It is unacceptable for women and children to live in fear in their own homes. Democrats and Republicans have an obligation to work together to institute a zero tolerance policy to stem the tide of domestic violence in our state.”

The Governor’s second bill ensures money for the Victims’ Compensation Fund is collected. The Victims' Compensation Program, a program administered by the Maine Attorney General, provides financial reimbursement for losses suffered by victims of violent crime and their families. When an offender is sentenced or a fine is imposed, the court requires the offender pay a $25 fee. Currently, in some cases, the fee is suspended by judges. The Governor’s proposed law would prohibit courts from waiving that fee.

The final piece of Governor LePage’s domestic violence agenda involves an executive order which will allow for the creation of a task force to explore new technology that can be used to protect domestic violence victims. For example, the group will be encouraged to learn more about technological tools for tracking the movements of domestic violence offenders after they are released from custody on bail or probation. The task force will also explore electronic assistance to be utilized by victims, such as a “life alert” bracelet. Members of the Department of Public Safety, Office of Information & Technology, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Maine Chiefs of Police, Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s Office will be asked to participate.

“Many victims are aware of the dangers of domestic violence, and by all accounts, do everything they can to protect themselves, but our laws are not strong enough to keep people safe from depraved abusers who are likely to continue physical abuse,” said Governor LePage. “This is why we must continue to improve safety measures and explore new technology that has the potential to save lives.”