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Repeat domestic violence could carry tougher penalties

Many incidents of domestic violence are sparked by the pouring out of difficult emotions or even a simple misunderstanding among family members. Each family has its problems, and sometimes those problems swirl into a physical or verbal altercation that results in criminal charges. Most spouses and family members who have experienced this kind of situation do what they can to prevent it from happening again. Still, repeat domestic violence crimes do happen.

With these issues in mind, readers in the White Plains area will be interested to hear that New York lawmakers are pushing for stiffer penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders. The district attorney for Manhattan has endorsed the legislation, which would give prosecutors the ability to file a felony-level charge of "aggravated domestic violence" against people who have previous domestic violence convictions.

Specifically, if the bill is passed, individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence two or more times within five years will face penalties for a felony crime.

Currently, only people who are accused of causing serious injury or killing a person can face felony-level charges. That means people who are accused of repeat domestic violence offenses are usually only charged with a misdemeanor.

However, many victim advocates and a number of New York legislators are seeking to change all that.

Though it remains to be seen if the bill will be passed into law, the proposed penalties could effectively send a lot of New Yorkers to jail. According to one victim advocacy group, between 2005 and 2010, 679 residents were convicted of two or more domestic violence crimes in New York County alone.

Readers in the New York City area who have domestic violence concerns will want to keep an eye on the proposal as it makes its way through the legislative process.

Source: Legislative Gazette, "Assembly passes repeat domestic violence bill," Andrew Carden, March 26, 2012

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