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Editorial: New legislation helps victims of domestic violence

One accomplishment of Minnesota's last legislative session that didn't grab a lot of headlines was a measure that will provide more protection for victims of domestic violence.

More people should know about it and those who led the bill through its passage deserve credit for standing up for victims who need more help in their corner.

The 2010 Domestic Violence Omnibus Bill, signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty, will take effect Aug. 1. The bill was sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women and supported by domestic violence survivors and victim advocacy groups.

The legislation, according to the MCBW, addresses the following issues:

Stalking. Stalking is one of the leading indicators that an abuser's behavior may become lethal. Fifty-four percent of victims reported stalking to police prior to their murders. This bill strengthens the language of the statute in order to better protect victims of domestic violence.

Tampering with a witness. The bill creates a misdemeanor level witness tampering offense that involves interference with a crime witness when there are threats, without the need to also prove coercion.

Electronic monitoring. This bill lifts the ban on the use of GPS/electronic monitoring for the protection of victims of domestic violence cases and allows for a pilot project. Now when a stalker sends a clear signal that they will strike again by violating an order of protection, law enforcement will have additional tools to use to stop them.

Orders of protection. The bill provides additional protection at a time when domestic violence victims are most vulnerable by restricting the batterer from a "reasonable area" around the victim's residence or dwelling place.

Domestic Abuse No Contact Orders (DANCOs). The bill clarifies that a DANCO is a criminal court order, not merely a condition of release and that the court can set maximum bail and issue a DANCO.

Bail increases. The bill increases the maximum bail cap on misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor domestic abuse and violation for protection offenses from six times the fine amount to 10 times the fine amount.

The consequences of domestic violence are all too real. According to a MCBW report, 28 Minnesotans were killed as a result of domestic violence in 2009. The "lethality factors" that led to more than half of the killings included the victim's attempt to separate from the batterer, the batterer's history of violence and access to firearms.

While the new law won't instantly quell the violence that pervades too many homes, it empowers the victims of violence with added safeguards and additional layers of protection.