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HB #833; SB #965:  An Act Relative to Abuse Prevention

Testimony to Committee of the Judiciary

Michael P. O'Neil, Co-chairman, CPF/The Fatherhood Coalition

May 17, 2004

I am Michael O'Neil, Cochairman of CPF/The Fatherhood Coalition. Our organization drafted House Bill 833 and Senate Bill 965, An Act Relative to Abuse Prevention. This legislation is designed to correct some of the serious deficiencies in Chapter 209A: Abuse Prevention

            Some supporters of Chapter 209A in its current form may concede that at times it has been abused. Anyone who has been subjected to its complete lack of due process of law and its complete lack of presumption of innocence, and anyone who has ever read the Constitution, however, must know that the problem is not that Chapter 209A is being abused, but that it is being used. Nonetheless, as a first step in reforming this law, our legislation will eliminate many of the blatant abuses of justice which occur on a daily basis in courtrooms across the state.

            Among its features, our bill modifies the definition of abuse in Section 1 of Chapter 209A: "placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm" is replaced by "threatening another with imminent serious physical harm". Today, far too many extremely angry women are claiming they are fearful in order to confiscate their spouse's children, house and income. The alleged victim's alleged emotional state can no longer be grounds to obtain a protection order.

            Violations of no-contact provisions of protection orders must be intentional in language added to Section 7 of Chapter 209A. The word "violation" is replaced by the phrase "intentional violation of the no-contact provisions". For example, inadvertently running into your accuser in the Post Office will no longer be a felony.

            Disincentives are added for fraudulent protection orders. Section 4 of Chapter 209A is amended with the addition of directions for judges when a plaintiff has lied to obtain a temporary abuse protection order. The court may vacate the order, make a finding of fraud, and hold the plaintiff liable for costs and damages incurred by the wrongfully accused defendant.

            Defendants will be allowed to present evidence in their defense when accused of domestic abuse (what a novel concept!), and complaints for protection orders must be signed under the pains and penalties of perjury in changes made to Sections 4 and 7 of Chapter 209A.

            Abraham Lincoln once remarked that he knew lots of people who thought slavery was a wonderful thing, but he never met anyone who would want to be a slave. I'll bet there are a number of people in this room who think Chapter 209A is a wonderful law. Is there any slave here who would want to be subjected to it? Pass House Bill 833. Justice demands it.

Thank you