NEW LAW HIGHLIGHTS MARYLANDíS OBSERVANCE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that Marylandís "Full Faith and Credit Law" went into effect October 1, expanding the protection available to victims of domestic violence who are from out of state. Based on an opinion from this office, the law does three things: It permits law enforcement officers to criminally enforce out-of-state ex parte or temporary orders; it permits law enforcement officers to enforce out-of-state orders for protection that appear valid on their face; and, it grants immunity from civil liability to law enforcement officers who act in good faith and in a reasonable manner when enforcing these orders.
According to the Family Violence Council, co-chaired by Curran and Lt. Governor Townsend, each year many women and children flee their homes to escape domestic violence. Many of these women leave with an order of protection and are in search of a safe haven away from their abuser. The 1994 Violence Against Women Actís full faith and credit provision required every jurisdiction in the United States to recognize and enforce valid protection orders. Since 1996, Maryland has enforced out-of-state orders for protection.
"Prior to the passage of this legislation, we were unable to protect officers who, while acting in good faith, enforced an order which later turned out to be invalid," Attorney General Curran said. "Maryland law just did not go far enough to protect victims. Women who came from other states with valid ex parte orders were not getting the assistance they deserved. This law changes that."
In addition to the implementation of HB 254, which was passed during the 2001 legislative session and signed into law on May 15, 2001, October 1 marks the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Organizations around the state, including the Family Violence Council, will be hosting programs that raise awareness about domestic violence. Domestic Violence effects millions of women and children each year. Between July 1999 and June 2000, 62 Marylanders--men, women and children---died as a result of domestic violence--that is one person every six days.
"Today marks another milestone in Marylandís efforts to protect our citizens from the trauma of domestic violence," said Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "The effect of this legislation will ensure that our law enforcement officers can pursue perpetrators of domestic violence with the full confidence of the law behind them."