HARRISBURG – A proposal that would help district judges protect domestic violence victims is one step closer to becoming law with unanimous approval by the House of Representatives today, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Senate Bill 449, also known as Tierne’s Law, clarifies existing law that allows judges to use risk assessment tools when setting bail in domestic violence cases. These tools have proven to be effective in predicting an abuser’s odds of re-offending and creating a dangerous circumstance for victims, Bartolotta said.
“Without the use of risk assessment tools, it can be extremely difficult for judges to know whether an offender still poses an imminent danger to his or her victim,” Bartolotta said. “Expanding the use of these tools could give judges a clearer picture of the abusers who are most likely to continue to terrorize their victims if they are released on bail.”
The bill was named in honor of Tierne Ewing, a Washington County resident who was kidnapped and later murdered by her estranged husband in August 2016. The killer had been arrested a few weeks prior to the kidnapping for domestic violence and other offenses, but was granted bail in spite of the prosecutor’s request for bail to be raised or revoked.
Last year, Pennsylvania provided support to more than 89,000 victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence played a role in 102 homicides in 2016, including eight in the counties Bartolotta represents.
Bartolotta’s bill was developed with input from district attorneys, domestic violence experts and others who have an interest in improving the judicial system’s ability to protect victims.
The bill was sent to the Senate for consideration of House amendments. If approved by the Senate in its current form, the bill would be sent to the Governor to be signed into law.
CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463