Do you live in California?

I’ve been contacted by Alexis Moore of Survivors in Action and asked to make you aware of a new domestic violence law that has been proposed in California.

If you live in California, you may already be aware of this proposal. If you are not aware, then I hope to give you some information about it so that if you can be informed and if you choose you can offer your support. I have long thought that this kind of bill needs to be made and needs to be available in all states. California seems a good place to start.

When a woman meets a man, neither wears a sign on that gives a warning that they may be abusive. If one of the persons hears that the other person has been convicted of a domestic violence, the other will usually have a nice neat answer for that. “It was just an argument that got out of hand,” “one party was angry and retaliated” “it was the other’s fault” or something similar. So how do you find out what kind of person you just met, are they someone you would feel comfortable dating, and what really happened that they were convicted of domestic violence?

You can search the internet, but many states don’t put court info online. You can search out new stories, but many domestic violence incidents don’t make the news stories unless someone dies. You can ask their family or friends about it, but can you really trust what you are told? So how can a person find out if this person they may be dating, may be getting serious about is a good choice or someone to be wary of?

A law has been proposed in California to establish a database containing the names of persons who have been convicted of domestic violence. This database would be online and public. And after finding a name, if there are any questions about what really happened in that domestic violence case, the court will be required to release additional information about the case…. free of charge.

In addition, a person seeking a protection order against the named person will be able to use those previous convictions as grounds for obtaining the protection order.

If you choose to support the bill, you can write or fax your support t

Contact person for bill:           Catalina Hayes-Bautista

Legislative Aide

Office of Assemblywoman Fiona Ma

P:916-319-2012

F:916-319-2112

Fact Sheet for CA AB 1771

Summary: AB 1771 will provide Californians with an online database of convicted domestic violence offenders, require the Court to provide information regarding domestic violence convictions to requestors free of charge, and allow individuals to use prior convictions as basis for securing restraining orders.

Background: The need for this bill was brought to our attention by Jim Hammer, a former San Francisco prosecutor, in response to a double murder he prosecuted. In 1995, Nadga Schexnayder and her mother were shot to death by Ronnie Earl Seymour, a former boyfriend of Nadga who had a 20-year history of violence against women. The family had suspicions of Seymour’s violent behavior but could not prove their suspicions.

Information about previous domestic violence convictions is already available to the public but difficult to obtain. One must have both the time and the resources to obtain such information. AB 1771 seeks to remedy this.

Problem: According to the California Attorney General’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center, California law enforcement received 176,299 domestic violence calls in 2006 – 80,946 of which involved weapons.

In 2006, 134 murders were the result of intimate partner violence in California. 110 women were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends, and 24 men were killed by their wives, ex-wives or girlfriends (California Department of Justice [DOJ], Criminal Justice Statistics Center [CJSC]).

California can reduce the number of domestic violence incidents by providing

information about prior convictions online, and by providing potential victims with useful tools to avoid violence or a potentially violent partner.

Solution: Specifically, AB 1771 would require the following:

1) The Attorney General would develop an online database that would report the name, date of birth, county and date of conviction for individuals convicted of felony domestic violence or multiple counts of misdemeanor domestic violence. The database would keep updated information available for 10 years.

2) Superior Courts would be required, without charge, to provide additional information to a requestor about a domestic violence conviction.

3) A restraining order may be secured based on evidence that the person against whom the order is to be issued has previously been convicted of a crime of domestic violence.

4) A new assessment would be placed on domestic violence convictions to provide additional funding for domestic violence programs.

5) AB 1771, as amended on March 10, strengthens the privacy protections for domestic violence survivors, as well as for minor children who may be in a household when domestic violence strikes.

Sponsor:

Survivors in Action

Staff contact:

Catalina Hayes-Bautista 319-2012

Sample Support Letter

The Honorable Fiona Ma

Assemblywoman, 12th District

State Capitol, Rm. 2176

Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Assemblywoman Fiona Ma,

I am writing to express my strong support for Assembly Bill AB 1771 (Ma), which will provide Californians with an online database of convicted domestic violence offenders, require the Superior Courts to provide information regarding domestic violence convictions to requestors free of charge, and allow individuals to use prior convictions as basis for securing restraining orders.

This legislation is long overdue. According to the California Attorney General’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center, California law enforcement received 176,299 domestic violence calls in 2006 – 80,946 of which involved weapons.

According to the California Department of Justice and Criminal Justice Statistics Center, 134 murders were the result of intimate partner violence in California in 2006. 110 women were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends, and 24 men were killed by their wives, ex-wives or girlfriends.

Existing laws do little to prevent or deter domestic violence. With AB 1771, California can do more to curb the dangerously high numbers of domestic violence incidents by providing information about prior convictions online, and by providing potential victims with useful tools to avoid violence or a potentially violent partner.

Sincerely,

Or, if you are going to write and if you have a personal connection to DV through yourself or someone in you family you may wish to explain how this information might have helped in your situation.

If you have any questions, thoughts or comments on the issue I would be interested in hearing them even if you do not live in California.

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4 Comments

  1. Kat said,

    March 25, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    As a former resident of California and a former victim of domestic violence, I can only say it is about time! We can only hope that all states adopt this tool. I was one of the lucky one’s that had a family who believed I was in extreme danger and offered help to relocate and change my name. I know that most victims of DV don’t have that option.

  2. Karen said,

    March 25, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you for this info. I believe this is a much needed law. I hope it pulls through. Also thanks for the bill contact information, I’ll be sure to pass the info along, I know many people who will be happy to get this news. Have you heard about Biography channels new real-life series “I Survived” by any chance? It focuses on how individuals overcame unbelievable circumstances. It’s definitely a show that empowers the viewer to keep moving forward. It airs Mondays at 9pm/8C, Check out http://www.biography.com/isurvived/ for more info. I’m proud to be working with Bio on spreading awareness. I hope you find the show to be as inspirational as I do. Does this sound like a show that would interest you?

  3. Trey said,

    March 27, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    This sounds like a good idea to me. There is a subset of people who are more prone to violent acting out. Some of them are decent enough people in general who have brain problems that compromise their ability to make good choices when they are upset. Then there are people who are just plain dangerous, with clear antisocial tendencies. Either way, these folks are dangerous! Anything that helps other people avoid them would be a boon.

    What this would not help with is people who have become imprinted on dangerous relational partners. Those folks would not check the database anyway, and have this uncanny knack for picking out abusive partners. It is sad and dangerous, and I am at a loss as to what can help those folks recognize the pattern and interrupt the unhealthy attraction.

    I have no idea what can help them.

    Trey

  4. Lisa Lucero said,

    August 21, 2008 at 3:29 am

    I believe we need a database. Although many of these criminals go without being reported, when they are they should be listed by name, date of birth, and a physical description. I was lucky. I walked away with my life but it will never be the same. Now I am afraid to date. No one is going to tell you, oh by the way I have been in jail for spousal abuse, or, that they have been arrested on charges as such. Why are these criminals protected. They should be exposed to the world. I know I would never date a person with a history of violence. If I knew!?


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