Amber’s Law – Electronic Monitoring & Notice to Victims of Offender’s Proximity to Stay Away Locations

While not obviously a domestic violence law, Amber’s Law (HB1163) implements procedures enabling a victim to request reasonable safety protections for herself and her family upon finding of probable cause and before the arrest warrant issues. The safety protections may include electronic monitoring to include “victim stay-away alert technology”, which notifies the victim if the offender goes to or near locations the offender was ordered to stay away from. This law also requires victim impact statements to include any requests for electronic monitoring or victim stay-away alert technology and requires the development of educational brochures for victims and their families about this option.

Amber’s Law can be found in changes to Maryland’s Criminal Procedure Article §§11-101, 11-105, 11-402, and 11-912. Amber’s Law takes effect October 1, 2017.

Domestic violence Protective Orders, criminal bond conditions, and other related documents tell offenders to stay away from the victim and victim’s family. For example, Protective Orders require an offender to stay away from the victim’s home, place of work, children’s schools and daycares. Additionally, a judge can “order any other relief that the judge determines is necessary to protect a person eligible for relief from abuse”, which could include ordering an offender to stay away a certain distance from specific locations.

Telling an offender to stay away is not the same as actually staying away. Victim stay-away alert technology attempts to bridge this gap by letting a victim know if an offender is closer than allowed.  However, Amber’s Law only applies to criminal proceedings, not civil domestic violence protective order matters.

If successful in the criminal realm, I expect to see legislative efforts to expand this into the domestic violence realm – if only for consistency’s sake. Because in domestic violence cases judge can already “order any other relief that the judge determines is necessary to protect a person eligible for relief from abuse”, which could include this technology – if requested. And, depending on the particular judge.  Expanding the domestic violence statute would clearly authorize judges to order this technology, thus lessening inconsistency.

In the meantime, will we see an uptick of criminal charges stemming from domestic violence incidents in order to access this technology?

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