Hardly a day — let alone a week — goes by that the Times-News police log does not carry a report of a local domestic violence incident. That frequency is also the case throughout Maryland, prompting state legislators to look at ways of giving women and children more protection.
Gov. Martin O’Malley is sponsoring a trio of bills aimed at reducing domestic violence cases. The bills seek to:
• Make it easier for victims to get protective orders.
• Add second-degree assault, which is usually the charge in domestic violence incidents, as an automatic reason to issue a protective order.
• Increase the penalty for domestic assault if the violence is committed in the presence of a child.
Over the last several years, legislators have passed a number of domestic violence bills to address the problem. The Baltimore Sun notes that domestic assaults have fallen 20 percent over the last decades, and homicides of women and children attributable to domestic assaults fell by 32 percent.
Nevertheless, more needs to be done. It is still too difficult to obtain a protective order.
The Sun reports that Maryland is the only state in the nation that requires victims to show "clear and convincing evidence" that their lives are at risk. Last year, out of 5,700 requests for permanent protective orders that were denied by the courts, 3,500 were rejected because they didn't meet that evidentiary standard.
The O’Malley legislation would change the requirement of “clear and convincing evidence” to a “preponderance of evidence,” giving courts more leeway in issuing protective orders.
Time is of the essence when a protective order is needed. The bills before the General Assembly may result in an even sharper decline in the battering of women and children.