By Brian Marron
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS – Domestic violence legislation led the way Friday afternoon at a Maryland House Judiciary Committee hearing that also included measures on juvenile justice and cyber stalking laws.
Delegate Angela Angel, D-Prince George’s, presented a law expanding the definition of “abuse” regarding domestic violence to include destruction of property, trespassing and harassment, and would allow the victim to receive a protective order.
“We have created this exception, this broad, unexplained, illogical exception, that says it’s OK to torment and harass and intimidate someone if you have a domestic relationship with them,” Angel said. “And abusers are using this exception to manipulate and control their victims… and they can always fall back on ‘I never touched her.’”
Maryland law currently defines “abuse” as acts that cause bodily harm, puts victims in fear of bodily harm, sexual offenses, or false imprisonment.
Angel also gave an emotional account of her own experience with harassment from an ex and the stories she hears from those around her. This, she said, is the primary motivation for her push of this bill. Numerous victims shared their stories throughout the hearing.
Also at the hearing, Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard, in her first bill as a General Assembly member, urged the committee to consider an act that would allow a protective order to be valid regardless of jurisdiction. The current Maryland law does not recognize such protections if the abuse occurred in another state or if those involved were not Maryland residents at the time of the maltreatment.
In addition, Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith, D-Prince George’s, asked the committee to favorably review a bill granting a permanent protective order to victims of cases where their domestic partners attempted to have them killed by a third party. The bill would only apply if the offender received at least five years imprisonment for the crime and has served at least one year of their sentence.
Lastly, Delegate Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery, presented a pair of bills regarding state domestic violence policies.
The first proposes that a protective order for an abuse victim may be extended for up to two years — with the abusee’s consent — if filed within one year of the original order’s expiration. The second allows a protective order to include additional provisions that a district judge deems appropriate.
Delegate Jill Carter, D-Baltimore, presented a bill that would hold youths charged as adults in juvenile detention centers, rather than adult custody centers, for the time period before their hearing to decide whether they will be transferred to adult court. The bill only applies to teens who are eligible for a transfer and have not been previously convicted as an adult. The bill does not apply to 16- and 17-year-olds charged with first-degree murder.
Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed testified on behalf of the department in support of the bill, despite its past opposition to such a bill. Abed cited previous concerns over the lack of space available at juvenile detention centers as the primary reason for opposition, but said declining juvenile crime rates have quelled those concerns.
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger expressed stern opposition to Carter’s bill, saying such offenders, despite their age, are committing adult crimes and thus should not be sent to a center designed to house children.
“We should not mandate that (eligible juveniles) go to a juvenile facility,” Shellenberger said. “We should allow a judge to use the discretion that they have.”
Maryland’s current stalking laws would include harassment via social media and electronic tracking if a bill presented by Delegate Aruna Miller, D-Montgomery, is passed. Miller said the current law does not address cyber stalking beyond email, which needs to be changed as technology has advanced.
Delegate Jay Jalisi, D-Baltimore County, is also sponsoring a cyber stalking bill that prohibits someone from installing any computer software for someone without their consent. Jalisi was not present at the meeting and his bill was read by Atterbeary.