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New law adjusts sentences for domestic violence survivors

New York is being hailed as a progressive leader in justice system reform with the recent signing of the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act. According to MEAWW, the law considers the abuse history of someone who is accused of committing a crime against their abuser. It allows judges to consider the history of abuse to provide more lenient sentences to the accused.

There are still strict sentencing guidelines and many judges may use the history to offer alternative to incarceration programs or shorter sentences. In the past, any crime committed was treated separately from who it was committed against. This means that a domestic violence victim who hurt or killed their abuser would still be charged with a harsh crime even though they were being abused. Judges could not formerly use the history of abuse when determining sentences.

Supporters of the act feel it will lead to more humane sentencing. It requires that the crime be committed during the period of abuse and the domestic violence must have been a large part of the defense. The judge will also consider whether former sentencing guidelines were extremely harsh for the situation when determining new sentences.

The law does not apply to those convicted of sex offenses, aggravated murder, terrorism offenses or murder in the first degree. Those who have already been sentenced but want to request re-sentencing must be facing an original sentence longer than eight years and they must be currently incarcerated because of the offense. As research suggests that domestic violence is a large factor in many crimes and that some would not have committed a crime if it were not for the abuse, supporters hope that the state can become an example for other states to provide more appropriate sentencing guidelines.

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