Landmark day as 5 Victims Protection Bills pass the House 

Joshua’s Law passes, the bill will be signed into law by Governor Hassan

April 30, 2014

(Concord, NH) Today was a historic day for victims’ rights legislation in New Hampshire.  Members of the House of Representatives voted to pass five bills that are poised to critically strengthen protections for victims of crime—most notably, Joshua’s Law. “This is a landmark day for victims of crime.” said Amanda Grady Sexton, NHCADSV Director of Public Policy. “We are heartened to see that NH lawmakers have dedicated so much time this session to prioritizing the legal rights of victims of abuse.”

  • SB 318, Joshua’s Law—the final hurdle. Passed by a vote of 325-3

After passing with unanimous support in the Senate, the House voted ought to pass SB 318 on a vote of 325-3.  The votes against the bill were cast by Representative Hoell (R) Dunbarton, Representative Sylvia (R) Belmont, and Representative Sapareto (R) Derry. SB 318 establishes the crime of domestic violence by taking charges that are commonly used in domestic violence related cases and reorganizes them under one crime of “Domestic Violence”. This important distinction in statute will allow our justice system, child protection agencies, law enforcement, and advocates to more effectively coordinate community responses to assist victims of domestic violence and their children and hold abusers accountable. Becky Ranes, Joshua Savyon’s mother, was on hand for the vote, as she was in the Senate. Ms. Ranes has testified before the House and Senate, urging them to pass this bill, and has been lauded by Governor Hassan for her tireless advocacy efforts on behalf of victims of domestic violence across the state—a labor of love, according to Ranes, to keep her son’s memory alive: “It’s incredible to see how far we’ve come. This is one step in raising awareness and education about domestic violence and how it needs to be recognized and addressed before it escalates. Joshua was always looking for ways he could help others. This bill is in keeping with his caring spirit.” 

Next steps: SB 318 is headed to the Governor's desk to be signed into law.

In addition to Joshua’s Law, the House will be voting on the following bills:

  • SB 317, relative to trafficking in persons. Passed unanimously - 325-0!

This bill represents an important update to our existing human trafficking statute. NH was one of the first states in the nation to criminalize human trafficking. Since then, we have fallen behind, and been rated as the second-to-worst state in the nation for trafficking victims’ protections. This law will give prosecutors the tools they need to successfully prosecute individuals who traffic children, women and men in sex and labor trafficking. Specifically, this law enhances the criminal penalty for sex trafficking of minors.  It recognizes that children are unable to consent to sex acts by protecting child victims of sex trafficking from criminal prosecution or juvenile delinquency proceedings. The bill also provides protections to victims testifying in court against their trafficker, making it easier for prosecutors to call victims as witnesses for trial. This bill provides victims of trafficking who have been wrongly convicted of a crime to petition to vacate their conviction. The bill also allows a victim of human trafficking to sue his or her trafficker within ten years of the trafficking for damages caused by the trafficking.  This bill allows a victim of human trafficking who has been tattooed with an identifying mark to use funds from the NH Victims Compensation Fund to remove the tattoo.  This bill is critical to strengthening NH trafficking laws and will help prosecutors convict traffickers for their heinous acts and provide victims the resources and protection they need to begin to rebuild their lives. Child sex trafficking survivors Holly Austin Smith and Margeaux Gray gave voice to the plight of human trafficking victims before the Senate and House, respectively. Their strength and courage in sharing their stories highlighted the fact that human trafficking is not just an urban problem; it is an international epidemic, and NH is not immune. In February 2014, two men were arrested in a hotel in Salem, New Hampshire for sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl from Massachusetts. Now is the time to update our human trafficking statute so that NH is not a safe haven for traffickers.

Next steps: SB 317 is going to the floor with a recommendation of Ought to Pass as Amended from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The Committee passed an amendment that removes the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for traffickers. Because this is a departure from the Senate-passed version of the bill, it will have to go back to the Senate, which can vote to concur with the House amendment (the bill passes) non-concur (the bill dies) or go to committee of conference to reach a compromise.

  • SB 253, relative to termination of parental rights. This bill passed unanimously on the consent calendar.

This bill allows victims to terminate the parental rights of rapists who impregnate them. Under current NH law, the court may grant a petition to terminate parental rights, only upon a criminal rape conviction or guilty plea. Unfortunately, rape is the most underreported violent crime in America, and in NH, a mere 3% of rapes ever result in a conviction. Significantly, the bill adds a mechanism for a fact-finding hearing for these proceedings and removes the requirement of a criminal rape conviction or guilty plea before the court can terminate. Under this bill, the court shall grant a petition to terminate if a) it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the child’s birth was the result of their mother having been raped, and b) if it is in the best interest of the child to terminate parental rights.

Next steps: SB 253 is going to the floor with a recommendation of Ought to Pass as Amended from the House Children and Family Law Committee. The Committee passed an amendment that allows for a court to prohibit contact between a rapist and their victim and the victim’s child, short of terminating the rapist’s parental rights. This amendment would allow a rape victim to seek child support from her rapist. Because this is a departure from the Senate-passed version of the bill, it will have to go back to the Senate, which can vote to concur with the House amendment (the bill passes) non-concur (the bill dies) or go to committee of conference to reach a compromise.

  • SB 205, relative to the use of metal detection devices at supervised visitation centers and establishing a commission to study supervised visitation centers. Passed by a vote of 275-23

This bill is the result of the Attorney General’s ad hoc committee to study supervised visitation centers, which was created in the wake of the Joshua Savyon tragedy at a supervised visitation center last August. SB 205 does two significant things to enhance security measures at supervised visitation center. First, it allows judges, when ordering supervised visitation with particularly dangerous abusers, to order that visitation only take place at a facility equipped with metal detectors and trained security personnel on-site. Second, it establishes a multidisciplinary commission to study supervised visitation centers. The commission will be charged with studying the availability of supervised visitation centers and services throughout the state and identifying the extent to which there is unmet need; reviewing the criteria used by the courts and DCYF to determine whether supervised visitation should be required in any case and, when it is required, when it’s no longer necessary; current policies and procedures; and whether supervised visitation centers should be licensed.

Next steps: SB 205 is going to the floor with a recommendation of Ought to Pass as Amended from the House Children and Family Law Committee. The Committee passed an amendment that removes the member of the guardian ad litem board from the membership of the commission. Because this is a departure from the Senate-passed version of the bill, it will have to go back to the Senate, which can vote to concur with the House amendment (the bill passes) non-concur (the bill dies) or go to committee of conference to reach a compromise.

  • SB 348, establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools. Passed by a vote of 214 to 107.

This bill establishes a commission to study the issue of sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools. The commission is charged with studying current practices and legislation in other jurisdictions regarding this education, including the activities and practices of state and local agencies and community organizations. Further, they will identify model-based curricula for sexual abuse prevention education; make recommendations for utilizing trained professionals to implement these curricula; identify opportunities for collaboration among stakeholders; and identify potential funding needs and sources to support increased sexual abuse prevention education in schools. 

Next steps: SB 348 is going to the floor with a recommendation of Ought to Pass from the House Education Committee. If adopted by the House, SB 348 will go to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

For more information, please contact Amanda Grady Sexton at 603-548-9377 or email Amanda@nhcadsv.org

About the Coalition

NHCADSV is a statewide network of 14 independent member programs committed to ending sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking, through direct services to victims, community education, and public policy advocacy. The NHCADSV and its 14 member programs do not discriminate based on gender, age, health status (including HIV-positive), physical, mental, or emotional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socio-economic status, race, national origin, immigration status, or religious or political affiliation. For more information visit www.nhcadsv.org

 

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