ACT NO. 174
This act makes numerous changes to the criminal and civil laws regarding domestic violence; creates the Vermont Council on Domestic Violence in statute; establishes committees to study the issues of housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence and the harassment and bullying of students in Vermonts schools; makes changes to the health care laws to exempt victims of domestic violence from the twelve-month waiting period before they are eligible to receive health care coverage; and appropriates funds to prevent domestic violence, assist and support victims, and treat perpetrators.
With respect to the criminal laws, the act:
(1) Increases the penalty for domestic assault from one year to 18 months in prison.
(2) Allows the state to charge a person who commits domestic assault with second degree aggravated domestic assault if the person has a prior conviction for violating an abuse prevention order or for domestic assault.
(3) Creates the crime of interference with access to emergency services, which punishes a person who willfully prevents another from seeking or receiving emergency medical, third-party, or law enforcement assistance.
(4) Allows a conviction for sexual assault to be considered a prior offense when charging a person with a second or subsequent offense for lewd and lascivious conduct with child.
(5) Directs a sentencing court to consider whether a domestic assault offense was committed within the presence of a child.
With respect to the civil laws, the act:
(1) Makes it easier for the victim of domestic violence to receive a relief from abuse order or an order against stalking or sexual assault.
(2) Allows a person to receive an abuse prevention order against a person who is currently incarcerated.
(3) Allows a court to issue an ex parte order suspending a noncustodial parents visitation rights if it finds that there is a pattern or incidence of domestic or sexual violence or a reasonable fear for the child or custodial parents safety.
(4) Allows the court to set conditions when awarding parent-child contact to a parent who has been convicted of domestic assault or been the subject of a relief from abuse order.
The act establishes the Vermont Council on Domestic Violence. It directs the council to work in collaboration with state agencies, advocacy groups, and the public to raise awareness about domestic violence; to recommend changes to state programs, laws, and policies related to domestic violence; and to establish standards for intervention programs for perpetrators of domestic violence. The council is directed to make a biennial report to the general assembly, the governor, the supreme court, and the public.
The act requires law enforcement officers to receive at least 8 hours of domestic violence training by 2010, and retraining every two years in order to remain state-certified. It also directs the Vermont police academy to employ a domestic violence trainer.
The act establishes a committee to study the issue of housing discrimination against victims of domestic and sexual violence and to report its findings to the senate committees on judiciary and on economic development, housing and general affairs, and the house committees on judiciary and on general, housing and military affairs by December 15, 2008. The act also establishes a committee to study the issue of the harassment and bullying of students in Vermont schools and to report its findings to the senate and house committees on judiciary and on education by December 15, 2008.
The act changes Vermonts health care laws by waiving the 12-month waiting period required before a person can become eligible to receive health care coverage if the person lost his or her previous health care coverage because of domestic violence.
The act raises several fees. It increases the fee on criminal and civil violations from $26.00 to $36.00. It also raises the marriage and civil union license fee from $23.00 to $45.00.
The act appropriates the amount of $883,000 from the victims compensation fund for the center for crime victim services for the Vermont network against domestic and sexual violence. The appropriation is to be used to fund domestic violence prevention programs and services in order to break the generational cycle of domestic violence and to support the victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Effective Date: July 1, 2008.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street