BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    





                             SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
                         Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Chair
                             2015-2016  Regular  Session


          AB 439 (Bloom)
          Version: April 8, 2015
          Hearing Date: June 9, 2015
          Fiscal: Yes
          Urgency: No
          NR   


                                        SUBJECT
                                           
                       Protective orders:  batterer's program

                                      DESCRIPTION  

          This bill, would require a restrained party, who has been  
          ordered to participate in a batterer's program, to register for  
          the program by the deadline ordered by the court, or within 30  
          days if no deadline is indicated.  This bill would require that  
          at the time of enrollment, the restrained party sign all  
          necessary program consent forms for the program to release  
          specified documents, including attendance records, to the court  
          and the protected party, and to provide the court and the  
          protected party with specified information regarding the  
          program.

          This bill would additionally require the Judicial Council, by  
          July 1, 2016, revise or promulgate forms as necessary to  
          effectuate the above provisions.

                                      BACKGROUND  

          With the establishment of pro-arrest policies in the 1980s,  
          increasing numbers of batterers were seen in criminal courts  
          across the country. Initially, many batterers were sentenced to  
          jail.  Many victims began complaining that while they wanted the  
          domestic violence to stop, they did not want their partners  
          incarcerated.  Thus, today most District Attorneys prosecute  
          domestic violence cases as misdemeanors, rather than as  
          felonies.  In order to hold batterers accountable without  
          sentencing them to jail time, many batterers are ordered to  








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          participate in batterer's intervention programs. These 52-week  
          programs are at the center of California's criminal justice  
          response to domestic violence.  

          Although early evaluations suggested that batterer's  
          intervention programs reduced domestic violence, subsequent  
          studies showed little to no reduction.  This is, in part,  
          because so many participants fail to complete their programs.   
          Estimates of non-completion offered by probation officers is  
          somewhere between 30 and 50 percent, and the only county that  
          tracks this data reported a non-completion rate of 89 percent.  
          ("Reducing Domestic Violence and Other Criminal Recidivism:  
          Effectiveness of multilevel batterers intervention program."  
          Coulter, Martha; VandeWeerd, Carla
          Source: Violence and Victims, Volume 24, Number 2, 2009, p. 6.)   
          However, when batterers complete the assigned programs, the risk  
          of arrest, for both domestic violence and other crimes, is  
          lowered. (Id. at 139-152.) 

          Accordingly, the law now requires, that when a defendant is  
          convicted of criminal domestic violence, the court and the  
          probation department are notified when the defendant enrolls in  
          a court-ordered batterer's intervention program and also  
          notified if the defendant fails to complete the program.   
          However, when courts issue civil domestic violence prevention  
          orders, there is no corresponding requirement that the court be  
          informed of the batterer's enrollment in, or completion of, the  
          program. To help ensure that batterers complete court-ordered  
          programs in a timely manner, this bill would require a  
          restrained party register for a court-ordered program by the  
          deadline provided by the court, or within 30 days if no deadline  
          is indicated.  This bill would also aid in data collection by  
          requiring that the restrained party sign all necessary program  
          consent forms for the program to release information, including  
          attendance records, to the court and the protected party.

                                CHANGES TO EXISTING LAW
           
           Existing law  authorizes a court, under the Domestic Violence  
          Prevention Act, to issue and enforce a domestic violence  
          restraining order, including an emergency protective order, a  
          temporary restraining order, and a permanent restraining order.   
          (Fam. Code Sec. 6300 et seq.)  

           Existing law  provides that after notice and a hearing, a court  







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          may require a restrained party to participate in a batterer's  
          program approved by the probation department, as provided.   
          (Fam. Code Sec. 6343.)

           This bill  would provide, commencing July 1, 2016, that if the  
          court orders a restrained party to participate in a batterer's  
          program pursuant, the restrained party shall do all of the  
          following:
           register for the program by the deadline ordered by the court,  
            but if no deadline is ordered by the court, the restrained  
            party shall register no later than 30 days from the date the  
            order was issued;
           at the time of enrollment, sign all necessary program consent  
            forms for the program to release proof of enrollment,  
            attendance records, and completion or termination reports to  
            the court and the protected party, or his or her attorney; and
           provide the court and the protected party with the name,  
            address, and telephone number of the program.

           This bill  would require, by July 1, 2016, the Judicial Council  
          to revise or promulgate forms as necessary to effectuate the  
          provisions above.

                                        COMMENT
           
           1.Stated need for the bill
           
          According to the author: 

            Courts do not always get accurate participation or attendance  
            information on a restrained party's 52-week batterer's  
            intervention program.  Confidentiality provisions of  
            batterer's intervention programs prevent these programs from  
            providing records directly to the court absent a release  
            signed by the retrained party.  Batterer's' intervention  
            programs have no explicit authority to share information with  
            the courts in Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA) matters  
            the way they do in criminal cases. Information about the  
            restrained party's attendance in batterer's intervention  
            programs, including termination, is highly relevant to custody  
            determinations in family court.  Currently, the court and the  
            protected party must rely on the restrained party to bring in  
            these records.  Often, restrained parties fail to provide  
            records, or may even bring in falsified records.  The majority  
            of parties in restraining order cases are self-represented,  







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            and may fail to provide this information on purpose, or simply  
            because they believe the program provides the information to  
            the court directly.  

            Additionally, current law provides no time frame within which  
            a person ordered into batterer's counseling must register for  
            counseling.  Some judges routinely include a time by which a  
            person must register, but some do not.

           2.Allows courts and victims of domestic violence to monitor  
            compliance with the court's orders

           A family court that issues a domestic violence protective order  
          may order the restrained party to participate in a batterer's  
          intervention program, but there is no requirement that the court  
          be informed of the defendant's enrollment in, or completion of  
          the program.  By requiring the restrained party to sign all  
          necessary paperwork so that the program can release enrollment  
          and attendance information to the court, this bill would ensure  
          that the court has the ability to oversee the defendant's  
          compliance with the protective order.  The Executive Committee  
          of the Family Law Section of the State Bar (FLEXCOM), sponsor of  
          this bill, writes: 

            Under existing law, the victim of domestic violence does not  
            have a way of monitoring the restrained party's enrollment and  
            progress in a court ordered batterer's program.  The victim  
            and his or her attorney does not have any way of ensuring that  
            the restrained party has timely enrolled and completed the  
            program successfully.  Due to confidentiality, the program  
            will not release confirmation of the restrained party's  
            enrollment, attendance and either successful completion or  
            termination of the program.  And yet, this information is  
            shared in a criminal domestic violence case. This information  
            is necessary and important as it enables the court and the  
            victim to ascertain if the restrained party is taking steps to  
            address the issues and actions that led to the issuance of a  
            restraining order, and whether the restrained party is making  
            progress in the program.  Such information is valuable to the  
            court and the victim as it can provide the court with  
            information to protect the victim and allow the court to  
            continue monitoring the restrained party's progress and any  
            threat to the victim, as well as address any continued  
            restrictions or modifications to a parenting plan, to ensure  
            the protection of the minor children.







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          The restrained party's enrollment in, and completion of a  
          court-ordered batterer's intervention program is relevant to the  
          parties' ongoing disputes.  While it is important to confirm  
          that the defendant complied with the court's order, successful  
          completion of the program should also lead to reduced domestic  
          violence and other crimes.  Furthermore, completion of a  
          batterer's program is relevant to custody disputes.  Under  
          current law there is a rebuttable presumption against custody to  
          a parent who has committed domestic violence within the past  
          five years.  Completion of a batterer's intervention program is  
          one way to overcome that presumption.   

           3.Time frame for enrolling in a court-ordered batterer's  
            intervention program
            
           This bill would require a batterer to register for a  
          court-ordered program within the deadline set by the court or,  
          if no deadline is provided, within 30 days from the date the  
          order was issued.  This provision will help ensure that  
          defendants register for the program in a timely fashion.  Given  
          that these programs are 52 weeks in length, it is important that  
          defendants begin the process as soon as possible so that the  
          parties may resolve other ongoing disputes. (See Comment 2  
          above.)  

          Further, because most parties in domestic violence cases are  
          self-represented, this bill would require the Judicial Council  
          to update and/or create forms consistent with the provisions of  
          this bill so that the parties understand what is required, and  
          what information they are entitled to.  The California  
          Partnership to End Domestic Violence writes in support, "AB 439  
          will help keep survivors safe by keeping their abusive partners  
          accountable and providing consistent and reliable information  
          about their progress in the batterer's program."


           Support  :  California Police Chiefs Association; California  
          Partnership to End Domestic Violence

           Opposition  :  None Known

                                        HISTORY
           
           Source  :  Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the  







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          State Bar

           Related Pending Legislation  : None Known

           Prior Legislation  :  SB 218 (2000) authorized the court, after  
          notice and a hearing, to order a restrained person to  
          participate in a batterer's program that has been approved by  
          the probation department, as specified. 

           Prior Vote :

          Assembly Floor (Ayes 77, Noes 0)
          Assembly Appropriations Committee (Ayes 17, Noes 0)
          Assembly Judiciary Committee (Ayes 10, Noes 0)

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