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Violence Against Women Act up for reauthorization

According to news sources, Vice President Joe Biden and Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown will help lead the push to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Act was created in 1994 and is up for reauthorization this year.

In 1994, VAWA was accepted by both Republicans and Democrats, with little opposition. Today, some conservatives believe that VAWA unnecessarily gives immigrants the ability to stay in the U.S. by allowing them to claim battery, does not use safeguards to ensure grants are properly spent, and expands protections to too many groups.

VAWA expands financing for domestic violence programs. It supports grant programs for battered women shelters as well as for local law enforcement agencies. The current legislation would expand the definition of domestic violence to include stalking, provide training, and offer free legal help to domestic violence victims.

Lt. Gov. Brown has worked to increase help for domestic violence victims and reduce domestic violence since his cousin was killed by an estranged boyfriend. He has introduced domestic violence programs in Maryland hospitals and asked for legislation that allows judges to remove guns from individuals who commit domestic abuse.

Legal issues: Domestic violence in Maryland

If you are the victim of domestic violence in Maryland, you may have some legal options, including:

  • Protective orders: An individual may obtain a protective order against an abusive spouse, co-parent, or someone with whom they have lived for at least the past 90 days.
  • Peace orders: An individual may obtain a peace order against an abusive acquaintance or neighbor.

Protective orders and peace orders can be interim, temporary and final. Interim orders are available without the help of an attorney. However, you will need to attend a hearing to make that interim order a temporary order, and another hearing for a final order. At the hearing for the final order, the defendant can defend against the order. Thus, it is advisable to contact a Maryland lawyer experienced in domestic violence cases.

Source: The New York Times, "Women Figure Anew in Senate's Latest Battle," Jonathan Weisman, Mar. 14, 2012.

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