Baker-Polito Administration Joins Advocates, Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence to Highlight Dangerousness Proposal

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in full transparency, the following press release was submitted to SOURCE media from the Governor’s office.

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BOSTON – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito joined Secretary of Public Safety and Security Terrence Reidy, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn, Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance (MOVA) Executive Director Liam Lowney, law enforcement officials and survivors this week to participate in the fifth roundtable discussion highlighting the need to pass the Baker-Polito Administration’s refiled public safety proposal, which would provide comprehensive new protections for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, assault and battery, the harmful distribution of explicit images and other crimes.

Hosted at the University of Massachusetts Law School, today’s roundtable was the fifth in a regional series conducted across the Commonwealth since the administration refiled An Act to Protect Victims of Crimes and the Public and An Act Relative to the Harmful Distribution of Sexually Explicit Visual Materials in December.

As part of its continued efforts to support survivors and their families and expand commonsense protections, the administration has hosted similar roundtables in Plymouth, Springfield, Worcester and Salem. MOVA, which previously endorsed the administration’s legislative proposal, participated in today’s event and highlighted how these bills would bolster resources available to the individuals and families MOVA serves. 

“As public officials, offering survivors – including children – basic rights and protections so that they feel safe and supported throughout the legal process should be our top priority,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The current system is failing survivors and their families, and it is imperative that we deliver these commonsense measures on their behalf.”

“The strength of the men and women who have courageously stepped forward to share their stories with our administration is unmatched,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Survivors and their families have already withstood unimaginable trauma and pain, and this legislation would offer them the defense from their abusers that they deserve.

“This legislation will empower survivors with the protections needed to feel safe and alleviate the unrelenting fear inflicted by dangerous individuals,’” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Terrence Reidy. “A survivor’s traumatic experience is only made worse by a system that lacks the tools required to provide vital support for those who need it most.  We urge the Legislature to protect vulnerable citizens by advancing this bill.”

“The proposed amendments to the dangerousness statute include common sense changes to the existing dangerousness law. It is imperative that we add serious crimes to the dangerousness statute because under existing law, child sexual predators and other dangerous criminals who wreak havoc in our communities cannot be subjected to a dangerousness hearing and would be released back into the community. A defendant in their 30s or 40s could have sex with a 10-year-old child and the district attorney’s office could not even request to have them detained. This makes no sense and needs to change,” said District Attorney Quinn, president of the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association. “The proposed changes do not impact a defendant’s due process rights. They simply make it fairer for victims, and the administration of justice. The proposed amendments to the statute make it more equitable by focusing on the facts of a case and the defendant’s prior criminal record in determining someone’s dangerousness. The real question is should a person be held or not held, not how much money they can afford to spend on bail or what community they belong to.”

“MOVA is grateful for our partnership with the Baker-Polito Administration to support crime victims in the Commonwealth,” said Liam Lowney, Executive Director of MOVA.  “H.4290 provides for enhanced tools in sharing clear, consistent information that is essential for a victim’s personal safety and empowers well-informed decision making in the face of trauma.”

An Act to Protect Victims of Crimes and the Public: First filed in 2018, the Administration’s proposal would expand the list of offenses that can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing and close certain loopholes at the start and end of the criminal process that currently limit or prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns. It would strengthen the ability of judges to enforce the conditions of pre-trial release by empowering police to detain people who they observe violating court-ordered release conditions; current law does not allow this, and instead requires a court to first issue a warrant. Under this proposal, judges will be empowered to revoke a person’s release when the offender has violated a court-ordered condition, such as an order to stay away from a victim, or from a public playground. Current law requires an additional finding of dangerousness before release may be revoked.

The legislation also expands the list of offenses which can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing including crimes of sexual abuse and crimes of threatened or potential violence. It also follows the long-standing federal model in including a defendant’s history of serious criminal convictions as grounds that may warrant a dangerousness hearing. Current law requires courts to focus only on the crime charged and ignore a defendant’s criminal history when determining whether the defendant may be the subject of this sort of hearing.

An Act Relative to the Harmful Distribution of Sexually Explicit Visual Materials: First filed in 2017, this legislation seeks to close a loophole under current law by creating penalties for adults who distribute a sexually explicit image for purposes of revenge or embarrassment. While current law addresses non-consensual recording of an unsuspecting person, it does not address instances where someone distributes an image without consent regardless of whether the initial image may have been taken with consent. This legislation closes the gap in state law by creating a new felony offense and empowering judges in criminal proceedings to ensure an explicit image in question is permanently destroyed. 

Learn more about the legislation here.

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