OLYMPIA—New protections for domestic-violence victims who risk being tracked down by their abusers were signed into law today by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.
The measure sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, stiffens penalties for violating no-contact orders and makes it harder for abusers to locate their fleeing victims.
“Many victims of domestic violence live in constant fear that they and their children will be located by their abusers,” said Goodman. “Protecting the confidentiality of their whereabouts and showing zero tolerance for intentional violations of no-contact orders will help them to feel and be safer, and could literally save their own and their children’s lives.”
The new law (House Bill 2363) requires courts and others to respect the confidentiality of information that would allow perpetrators of domestic violence to locate their victim’s residence, employer, school, or place of refuge. Maliciously releasing confidential information about the location of a domestic violence program for any purpose other than required by a court hearing would be a gross misdemeanor— punishable by up to 364 days in jail.
The law also increases the penalty for violating no-contact orders in harassment cases from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, and requires defendants who are arrested for violating anti-harassment protection orders to appear in person before a judge within one working day after the arrest.
Courts that have probable cause will also be able to issue or extend no-contact orders even if the defendant fails to appear at arraignment.
“Strengthening privacy protections for domestic-violence victims is critical to their safety and the safety of our communities,” said Grace Huang, public policy coordinator for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We are very pleased that House Bill 2363 is becoming law.”
The Goodman measure looks ahead to the potential need for additional protections for domestic-violence victims by directing the Washington State Institute of Public Policy to assess recidivism by domestic-violence offenders and the effectiveness domestic-violence treatment programs.
Goodman, who serves as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has long championed legislative efforts to reduce domestic violence.
In 2010, he authored House Bill 2777, an omnibus reform that was the most sweeping rewrite of domestic-violence laws in 30 years.