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New Laws Help Protect Domestic Violence Victims in Alabama
Full Text of the Law | ACADV Summary of New Laws | New Bill Names Domestic Violence as a Separate Crime
Three new laws go into effect this summer that will provide better protection for victims of domestic violence and their children throughout the state. The laws, passed by the 2000 Legislature, address a number of issues related to domestic violence, including a new crime category for intimate partner abuse, a holding period in jail for arrested abusers, and medical and property insurance protection for victims of abuse.
"We are particularly gratified by the work of the 2000 Legislative session, which passed three key bills to improve the safety, health, and lives of victims of domestic violence," said Carol Gundlach, executive director of the ACADV. "These bills show that Alabama is responding to the issues of domestic violence in ways that will provide important protection to victims and their children."

The bills include:

Domestic Violence As a Crime bill

Alabama was the 26th state in the nation to pass legislation naming domestic violence as a separate crime under the criminal code. The "Domestic Violence as a Crime Bill," defines misdemeanor and felony domestic violence crimes, stiffens the penalties for repeat offenders, and doubles the sentences of abusers who also violate a victim's Protection From Abuse order. A Protection from Abuse order is a temporary restraining order that provides a domestic violence victim with legal protection from an abuser.

In the past, domestic violence crimes were charged under general assault and harassment laws, and prosecuted as such. The new law recognizes that domestic violence is a crime that needs to be identified, to give a clear message to abusers that battering your partner is a crime, and is punishable by the state, not the victim. The level of charges and potential penalties are now more serious for domestic violence offenses. For example, 'harassment' under the criminal code is a class C misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 3 months. Under the new law, harassment charged as domestic violence is a class A misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one year. The new law recognizes the dangerous severity of domestic violence crimes, which generally become more aggressive and frequent over time, by naming higher mandatory minimum penalties for repeat offenders, and for offenders who violate a protection order while committing those crimes.

The law also provides additional protection for victims by requiring law enforcement officials to determine the primary aggressor in a domestic violence incident. In the past, there have been a number of dual arrests in Alabama in domestic violence cases, where both the victim and the abuser are arrested for the crime. For the victim, this means not getting needed victim services, and getting a criminal record, which will effect custody and employment issues. The law enforcement officer is to consider previous complaints, relative severity of the injuries, and whether one person acted in self-defense.

The bill also requires law enforcement officers not to discourage future calls by threatening to arrest everyone, and not to consider the victim's possible participation in court proceedings in making arrests.
[A summary of the law.]

The new law is part of the curriculum in the Law Enforcement Training program begun by the ACADV this summer, through a grant funded by Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs-Law Enforcement Division. Training has been conducted around the state to more than 18 law enforcement agencies since June; more than 20 additional agencies have requested training, which should continue this year. The new law and related training will give law enforcement officers the tools they need to effectively intervene earlier in domestic violence cases.

"We see the training of law enforcement officers as a key to the successful enactment of this law, and the safety of victims of domestic violence," said Gundlach. "Statistics show that a victim has on the average five contacts with law enforcement before a domestic violence murder occurs," she said.

The curriculum was designed with law enforcement participation, and the training is conducted by seasoned veterans of law enforcement forces in the state who have been on the 'front lines' in domestic violence crimes, Gundlach said. "The training officers understand the dynamics of law enforcement, and at the same time have experience with and compassion for victims of domestic violence crimes and their children."

The curriculum includes determining the primary aggressor in domestic violence crimes, crime scene investigation, and enforcing the provisions of a PFA order. Law enforcement officials also learn about the dynamics of domestic violence and community resources from the local shelter program.

Holding Period Bill

The Holding Period Bill, which went into effect August 1, provides a "cooling off period" in jail for offenders arrested for domestic violence crimes. Recognizing the potential lethality of domestic violence, the Legislature passed the bill requiring an arrested abuser to be denied bail until a hearing is held before a judge or magistrate. If the hearing is not held in 12 hours, a bail can be set.

In the past, an offender could post bail just hours or less after an arrest. The abuser was then free to track down his victim and abuse again, before the victim had an opportunity to find safe haven in a shelter program, or with family and friends.

"In too many cases, there are further assaults and even homicides when the abuser returns home to discover his victim trying to escape," said Gundlach.

During the hearing, the judge or magistrate can further protect the victim by naming certain conditions on the bail that limit the offender's contact with the victim. These provisions can include prohibiting the offender from threatening, communicating with or having any contact with the victim, and ordering him to stay away from the victim at home, work or school. The batterer can be arrested for violating the conditions of bail release.
[A summary of the law.]

Domestic Abuse Insurance Protection Act

The Domestic Abuse Insurance Protection Act, which went into effect August 1, makes Alabama one of only 32 states which have prohibited insurance discrimination against victims of domestic violence. Abusers often seriously injure their partners, who then require medical treatment. Abusers also damage the victim's property, particularly items she values personally, and items she needs to support herself and her children including her home, car, books, work tools, and clothing

In the past, insurance companies have often denied insurance claims resulting from domestic violence, or canceled insurance of a victim who filed a claim on medical injuries or property damage caused by her abusive partner.

The new law makes it illegal for insurance providers to use a person's status as a domestic violence victim to deny insurance or deny coverage for injuries and damages suffered from the hands of an abusive partner. It also makes provision for victims to continue the insurance policy after separating from the abuser.
[A summary of the law.]

The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence serves victims of domestic violence and their families through agency training, educational outreach, and public policy work, and through its 18-member shelter programs and 24-hour domestic violence crisis line, 1-800-650-6522.


Full Text of Domestic Violence as a Crime Law
ACADV Summary of New Laws

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Domestic Violence Bill: "Creating the Crime Category of Domestic Violence"
This bill creates a crime of domestic violence in the criminal code, enhances the penalty for the crime, makes technical changes in the definition of domestic violence and requires police officers to determine the primary aggressor when making domestic violence arrests.

The bill defines the crime in these categories:

Domestic violence in the first degree is a class A felony.
The crime occurs when: The defendant commits the crime of assault in the first degree The defendant is the current or former spouse, parent, child, a person with whom the victim has a child in common, a present or former household member, or a person who has or had a dating or engagement relationship with the victim.
The arrest occurs without a warrant.

The penalty: The second or subsequent conviction of domestic violence in the first degree mandates a minimum of one year in prison without consideration of parole or time reduction.


Domestic violence second degree-class B felony.
The crime occurs when: The defendant commits the crime of assault in the second degree. The defendant has a relationship described as above, with the victim.

The penalty: The second or subsequent conviction mandates the defendant serve a minimum of six months in jail without consideration of probation, parole or reduction of crime.


Domestic violence third degree class A misdemeanor
The crime occurs when: The defendant commits a crime of assault in the third degree, reckless endangerment, criminal coercion or harassment. The defendant has a relationship described as above, with the victim.

The penalty: Second or subsequent conviction, the defendant shall serve a minimum of 48 hours in jail without consideration of reduction of time.


All penalties are doubled when the defendant violates a protection order the second or subsequent time.


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