Domestic violence bills move forward

By Kate Nash: The New Mexican

Domestic violence wasn’t one of the big topics mentioned much at the start of this legislative session, but bills to crack down on offenders are already making progress.

The House on Tuesday approved a measure that would prohibit anyone convicted of domestic violence offenses from becoming a police officer if the violation happened within the three years leading up to the time they apply.

The bill (HB33) also allows an officer’s certification to be revoked or suspended following a conviction for domestic violence crimes. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“We think it sets a really important standard for law enforcement and gives victims and communities a lot of trust that law enforcement is there to protect the public safety, so we’re really pleased with that bill,” said Lynn Rosenthal, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Among other things, the bill gives offenders a chance to go through a 52-week batterer intervention program.

“It doesn’t mean this person could absolutely never become a law enforcement officer but that they need to go through the proper intervention program in order to do that,” Rosenthal said.

Rep. Nate Cote, D-Las Cruces, sponsored the measure.

Meanwhile, a bill (SB4) sponsored by Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, would create a new criminal offense known as “damage to and deprivation of the property of a household member.” The crime would be a misdemeanor if the damage is $1,000 or less, while it would be a fourth-degree felony if the damage is more than $1,000.

“It’s a common dynamic of domestic violence that common property is destroyed, and it’s destroyed in order to intimidate or frighten the victim,” Rosenthal said.

The bill has cleared two Senate committees and is headed to the Senate floor — quick action this early in the 60-day session.

Rosenthal said the coalition’s main priority this session is protecting its funding.

“Our most important measure is to protect funding for domestic violence services,” she said. “If it was a normal year, we’d be here asking for more money. We need about $1.5 million new dollars to fill in the gaps for services, but we know it’s not a normal year so we’re not here asking for that. We’re saying, ‘Please don’t cut the funding.’ “

Other measures being proposed include an anti-stalking measure (SB166) and another (SB68) that would provide unpaid leave for domestic violence victims to go to court and meet with law enforcement regarding a domestic violence case.

Overall, Rosenthal said, she’s pleased with the progress of the anti-domestic violence legislation this year.

“I think it’s going well for domestic violence this year. I think it’s a good year to be talking about problems that communities are facing when we’re looking at an economic downturn like this.”

Contact Kate Nash at 986-3036 or knash@sfnewmexican.com.