Domestic Violence Bill Passes State Legislature

Andy Goodell

State Assemblyman Andy Goodell said a bill recently passed in the state Assembly and Senate calling for alternative sentencing laws for survivors of domestic violence who are then charged with a crime will not help the abused.

In fact, Goodell, R-Jamestown, said the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act could allow someone potentially charged with a serious crime to be given a lighter sentence.

According to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, the bill allows judges to sentence survivors of domestic violence who then commit a crime to an alternative sentence of imprisonment, including community based programs. Judge would be allowed to consider past abuse when making their sentencing decisions.

The bill — which passed the state Assembly on March 4 and the state Senate on March 12 — would also provide domestic violence survivors currently in prison the ability to apply for re-sentencing.

“Domestic violence is a heartbreaking reality for far too many in New York state,” Heastie said in a statement. “The Assembly majority is committed to ensuring that survivors have the tools and resources to put their lives back together. (This) bill will ensure that they are treated with compassion and fairness within our justice system.”

Joe Giglio

After passing both chambers, the bill has been returned to the state Assembly. It is now waiting to be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’ s office to either be signed into law or vetoed.

The state’s current sentencing structure, according to the speaker, does not allow judges the discretion to “fully consider the impact of domestic violence when determining sentence lengths.”

Goodell, however, disagrees with what the law would do if signed by the governor. The assemblyman said current law already allows judges the discretion when sentencing someone who is the victim of domestic abuse when the victim acts in self defense. The problem, he said, is when the law is applied to a crime not connected to abuse.

“This bill is completely unrelated to the abuser and the abused,” Goodell said. “This bill completely ignores the rights of the innocent victim and dramatically undercuts the deterrent impact of our criminal law.”

Goodell said he debated against the bill on the state Assembly floor. He noted that he fully supports programs that assist domestic abuse victims.

State Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, also voted against the bill. He was out of the office and could not be reached for comment.

Former State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, resigned before the vote was taken.