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Steven J. Gaba, Attorney and Counselor at Law
Phone: 301-738-7770

Maryland pilots domestic violence program

A program that was piloted in Maryland may now affect how police respond to domestic violence all over the country. The program is intended to prevent domestic abuse situations from escalating into tragedy, as well as change the way that law enforcement handles such situations. The program requires police officers to be trained in the appropriate ways to deal with people who are involved in a domestic violence incident.

A protocol is being established that lays out specific actions that police must take when domestic violence has been reported. For example, the victim is often given a questionnaire by a law enforcement officer to determine if he or she is at risk for homicide or serious injury. If the victim is considered to be at-risk, then he or she is given the phone numbers to domestic violence hotlines. In some cases, the police will call the help line on the victim's behalf.

Lawmakers in a neighboring state have been motivated to adopt Maryland's plan to combat domestic violence because of a recent tragic event. A young woman called 911 to report abuse by her boyfriend. Law enforcement responded quickly, but they were sent away by the boyfriend. Less than 24 hours later, the woman was found dead in her home. Her family has pushed for new laws to be passed that call for awareness on the part of police when such cases are reported to them.

The Lethality Assessment Program, which has its origins in Maryland, helps to identify potential victims of domestic violence. The positive effects of this program can now help victims in Maryland and around the country. Police officers can be trained to respond sensitively and appropriately to domestic violence cases so that the worst case scenario in these situations can be avoided as much as possible.

Domestic violence situations are fraught with emotion and must be handled carefully. Victims of domestic violence may wish to consult a legal representative in order to get a protection order to prevent further abuse. Additionally, anyone accused of committing such abuse may wish to obtain legal advice in order to prepare a defense against the allegations.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pittsburgh to Study How Police Handle Domestic Violence Calls Following Woman's Death," Moriah Balingit, Jan. 18, 2013

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