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Bill to protect children from domestic violence advances

Posted: April 1, 2014 1:30 p.m.
Updated: April 1, 2014 1:30 p.m.

SACRAMENTO – The Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to protect children from domestic abusers during court proceedings and after offenders are released from prison or jail.

Senate Bill 910, sponsored by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, closes a loophole that excludes children from being covered by protective orders issued by criminal courts.

“In California, domestic violence fatalities account for 12 percent of homicides in our state,” Senator Pavley said. “Offering children the same protections we give to adult victims may mean the difference of life and death for a child.”

Currently, courts may issue orders to protect spouses during criminal proceedings, and for up to10 years after abusers are convicted. However, this protection does not extend to all children because of a narrow legal definition of domestic violence. Family members must now request a new order to protect children in family court, which is often time-consuming and difficult, putting children at risk unless and until a new order is issued.

At a Senate Public Safety Committee hearing Tuesday, officials from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office described a case in which a four-month old was hospitalized with a bruise under the eye and a fractured arm. A witness reported the father had punched the infant in the face to stop it from crying and stuffed a sock into the mouth but the criminal court could not issue a protective order.

“The most vulnerable victims, including infants, are the only category of people that are left unprotected by current law,” said Los Angeles County Special Assistant District Attorney Jim Provenza. “They deserve the same protection as adult victims of family violence.”

SB 910 will be heard next by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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