AUGUSTA, Maine — The Legislature’s criminal justice committee late last week unanimously approved a bill that would be create a risk assessment tool for law enforcement officers in domestic violence cases.
Sponsored by House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, LD 1711 is one of several domestic violence-related bills that is up for debate this session.
Cain’s bill, which has bipartisan support in the Legislature and support from Gov. Paul LePage, would require officers to employ risk assessment tools in domestic abuse cases and then submit those results to a bail commissioner and district attorney.
Although officers could begin using risk assessment as soon as the law was adopted, it would not be mandated until January 2014.
“The bill will help better identify those who are likely to commit acts of domestic violence again and stop them before they can,” Cain said. “Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to preventing domestic violence.
“While strengthening law enforcement tools is critical, we must also work together on comprehensive domestic violence prevention resources and treatment for battered women and their families.”
Another bill, LD 1841, An Act to Ensure Funding for the Victims Compensation Fund, also was approved by the criminal justice committee last week, but not in unanimous fashion.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, said he was stunned to see only one Democrat on the committee — Rep. Anna Blodgett of Augusta — voted for it.
“As an attorney, a citizen and a legislator, I am saddened to see Democrats vote against a bill that makes an existing $10 assessment against criminals convicted of a crime mandatory and nonwaiverable by a judge,” Fredette said. “This assessment is used to fund the Victims Compensation Funds for the benefit of victims of domestic violence, rape and other crimes; these people are victims, not perpetrators.”
Both bills now go to the House and Senate for consideration.
Domestic violence legislation has been a focus of the LePage administration this session.
In addition to announcing two bills last month, LePage also signed an executive order that would create a task force to study the viability of using technology such as electronic monitoring to better track abusers and keep victims safe. That task force would report back by the end of 2012.
The governor said his goal is to create additional deterrents for abusers but that alone would not solve the problem.