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Thursday April 23, 2015

House Bill 8: Changing the Game of Domestic Violence Protection or Just a Band-Aid?
posted by Jessica C. Durden
Tags: In the news 

Kentucky governor Steve Beshear signed House Bill 8, a.k.a. the “Dating Violence Act,” into Kentucky law on April 1, 2015. Prior to this act, Emergency Protective Orders (EPOs) were available only to married couples, those individuals who had a child in common, or who lived together.   Once the EPO paperwork was served on the offender, the case proceeded to a Domestic Violence hearing.   At the Domestic Violence hearing, the parties would put on proof that an act of domestic violence occurred against either themselves or against one of their children and petition the court to sign a Domestic Violence Order (DVO).  Individuals in a dating relationship outside of those three categories could not, until this bill, obtain an EPO or a DVO against their dating partner.  The expansion in House Bill 8 is, on its face, a great move by the Kentucky legislature to protect a greater volume of people experiencing domestic violence.

However, what does this bill actually mean for people navigating the system?  At this stage, not much beyond expanding the potential pool of victims who can find after-the-fact relief in Kentucky courts.  That is, this bill will not, as some optimistic legislators may have imagined, stem the tide of men and women (and their attached children) finding themselves in abusive relationships.  Unfortunately, abusers will not be deterred by a broader class of victims now protected after the violence has already occurred.  All a DVO can do is “protect” the victim after the fact; it does not stop the violence before it starts.  Legislation like House Bill 8 is a step in the right direction for Kentucky, but it does not address the true black heart of abuse in romantic relationships. 

Ultimately, the DVOs that can be obtained are the same as they always were: up to three years of protection, renewable one month before the expiration date, and limited- to no-contact between the offender and the victim.  If the offender violates a term of the DVO, the victim is entitled to call the police and make a report and the offender may be charged with violation of the Order, which is a Class A misdemeanor (KRS 403.763).  Typically, a person with an active DVO against them cannot possess, buy, or store or attempt to possess, buy or store firearms for the duration of the Order.  Depending on the facts and the judge’s discretion, the Order may include no-contact provisions, contact by telephone only for purposes of discussing a child in common, and/or requirements that the offender stay 500 feet away from the victim and his or her residence and/or workplace for the duration of the Order.

If you or someone you love needs assistance with his or her domestic violence case, please contact Jessica Durden at (502) 254-2110 for a consultation.