N.H. Lawmakers Consider Domestic Violence Bills

January 23, 2012 — New Hampshire lawmakers on Thursday held a hearing to discuss two measures that would dramatically scale back current state domestic violence laws, My Fox Boston reports.

The first bill (HB 1581) would prohibit law enforcement officials from making immediate arrests of domestic violence suspects unless he or she witnessed the crime. Under current law, officers can arrest domestic violence suspects based on probable cause. The second measure (HB 1608) would limit the grounds for which an officer can arrest individuals who violate domestic violence protective orders.

The proposals have drawn heavy criticism from the Department of Safety, the attorney general's office, the Chiefs of Police Association and domestic violence workers.

According to retired Henniker Police Chief Timothy Russell, the bills would require that law enforcement "go back to the police station, sit down, do a complaint warrant and affidavit, find a judge or justice of the peace and get them to sign it, and go back and try to get the abuser." Franklin Police Chief David Goldstein said the legislation would send the state "back to the 1970s, which in domestic violence terms would be the Stone Age."

Amanda Grady of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said the bills would take unprecedented steps in dismantling the state's domestic violence statutes. New Hampshire's domestic violence laws are considered among the strongest in the U.S., according to My Fox Boston.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dan Itse (R), said dismantling the current laws is not his intention. "It's clear if a police officer sees somebody robbing a bank they ought to be able to arrest them," he said, adding, "Our Constitution is clear. You have to prove to an objective party, a judge, that there is reasonabl[e] cause" for an arrest warrant (Sacchetti, My Fox Boston, 1/19).