Using Sample Laws
Below are links to a variety of sample national domestic violence
laws. Some of these resources are regional or global surveys of national
laws. Others are examples of laws that have been enacted in particular
jurisdictions. While national laws may serve as useful models or resources,
none should be transplanted into a different legal context without
substantial consideration and adaptation. The principles of ensuring
victim safety and batterer accountability must guide the drafting process
of any new law.
Prior to drafting, it is important to address the issues of whether
there is a need for a domestic violence law and whether introduction
of such a law is appropriate at that particular time. The answers to
these questions will depend on an evaluation of the ways in which battered
women’s needs are or are not being addressed in the current legal
system, the contribution that can be made by a domestic violence law
to deterring batterers’ behavior, and the current political situation.
There are many different questions that might be relevant to this
inquiry. For example, should the law create a separate crime of domestic
violence, or should advocacy efforts be focused on ensuring the enforcement
of existing laws? Most countries already have laws that criminalize
many of the acts that constitute domestic violence—assault and
battery, kidnapping, harassment. Making domestic violence an independent
criminal offense, separate from other offences, can send a message
that domestic violence will not be tolerated by the community. Creating
a separate offense may also be necessary to counteract a failure by
law enforcement officials to treat domestic violence as seriously as
stranger violence under existing laws. On the other hand, establishing
a separate offence of domestic assault may, in fact, create the impression
that domestic violence is a lesser crime.
Practical considerations, as well, may dictate whether the
time is right for introduction of domestic violence legislation.
climate may not support such legislation, or the criminal justice
system may not be prepared to implement the reforms. In such
cases, it may be more effective to address reforms through
of policies and protocols.
Whether or not domestic assault is made an independent criminal offence,
a domestic violence law may still be necessary to ensure that victims
are provided with support and assistance. A domestic law can create
civil remedies for victims of domestic violence, such as Orders
for Protection. Other provisions
that allocate funding for victim protection and support, the collection
of statistical information, and other efforts to combat domestic
violence, can also be included.
Most importantly, however, it is vital that a draft domestic violence
law be analyzed to ensure that it does not have unintended negative
effects on battered women and their families. Consultation with battered
women and those who provide services to them is an essential part of
this process. Circulating the draft domestic violence law as widely
as possible to the groups that will be affected by the new law and
the agencies that will be charged with implementing and enforcing the
law can help identify any potential problems that might be caused by
the law. Soliciting the feedback from those who will enforce and implement
the law also helps to build community support for the law.
Surveys of National Laws
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights’s report,
An Investigation into the Status of Women’s
Rights in Central and South-Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent
States, 2000, provides
an overview of the laws on violence against women in the countries
of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent
provided by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) and the European Union, contains links to domestic
legislation on violence against women from 55 countries in CEE/CIS,
Europe and North America. Legislationline also provides links
to the law of the United Nations and the Council of Europe on
violence against women.
SEELINE, the South Eastern
European Legal Initiative, provides analyses of the following issues:
These analyses are provided for the following countries: Albania,
Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova,
Romania, Turkey and Yugoslavia. SEELINE also provides links to
the constitutions of Albania, Bosnia & Hercegovina,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia,
Turkey and Yugoslavia.
The Council of Europe publishes Legislation in the member States
of the Council of Europe in the field of violence against women
3 rev. Volumes I and II), Strasbourg, November 2002. Volume
1 and Volume
II of this publication contain an overview of laws relating to violence
against women in each of the Member States.
Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination
of Violence Against Women in the Field of Crime
Prevention and Criminal
published by the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and
Criminal Justice Policy in March 1999, offers an overview of
laws relating to
violence against women that have been adopted in many jurisdictions
throughout the world. Although the report focuses on criminal laws
and procedures, it also includes a discussion of civil law remedies.
Domestic Violence Legislation: Examples and Advantages,
Liz Kelly, January 2001, analyzes and evaluates domestic violence
laws enacted in a number of different countries. Kelly articulates
of the ways in which these laws differ, identifies innovative strategies
that might be adopted in the United Kingdom, and articulates advantages
of the different approaches.
State and Federal Domestic Violence Laws in the United States
Against Women Act of 1994
(VAWA) has provisions designed to improve both victim services
and arrest and prosecution of batterers. As described by the
Coalition of Domestic Violence,
VAWA created a national domestic violence hotline and allocated
substantial funds for a number of different kinds of initiatives
including shelters and other services for battered women, judicial
education and training programs, and programs to increase outreach
to rural women. VAWA not only reauthorized STOP grants, which support
programs designed to improve law enforcement and prosecution response
to domestic violence, but also mandated that domestic violence
advocates be involved in the planning and implementation of these
also reauthorized funds for Victim and Witness Counselors, who
work with domestic violence victims in federal prosecutions.
A provision of VAWA that created a federal civil right of action—a
right of action that would have allowed a victim of violence, such
as sexual assault or domestic violence, to sue the perpetrator for
civil damages resulting from the attack—was challenged as
unconstitutional under United States law. A brief
submitted in opposition to the challenge emphasized that VAWA was
consistent with the United States’ international legal obligations to provide
victims of gender based violence with effective remedies. Although
that particular provision of the law was struck down by the Supreme
Court as unconstitutional, the remainder of the law remained intact.
of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 created a new form
of relief for victims of domestic violence in the United States.
The new law created “U-Visas,” which allow immigrants who are
victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence, or have information
about those crimes, to apply for residency in the United States. A
law enforcement official must certify that the individual’s assistance
is necessary for the investigation.
The Institute for Law and Justice publishes Review
of State Laws Relevant to Violence Against Women (Domestic
Stalking, and Related Laws),
Neal Miller, 1 December 2002. This report contains a survey of
U.S. state laws on domestic violence, including laws that affect
and police policies.
by Eve Zamora, describes the different kinds of enhanced penalties
for domestic violence that have been enacted in different states
in the United States.
Violence & Stalking: A Comment on the Model Anti-Stalking
Code Proposed by the National Institute of Justice,
Nancy K.D. Lemon, December 1994, provides an excellent overview
of some of the issues that should be considered in drafting anti-stalking
legislation. Critical to such legislation is that it account for
domestic violence context in evaluating whether the behavior is
threatening, include implied threats in the definition of stalking,
and be based
on a “reasonable woman” standard, not a “reasonable
person” standard in determining whether behavior was threatening.
Section 518B.01 of Minnesota’s statutes, creates a civil remedy
of an Order for Protection (OFP), designates the procedures that must
followed in applying for and granting an OFP, and describes the kind
of relief that can be granted. For example, the Act sets forth the
circumstances under which an ex parte order may be granted and requires
that a hearing be held within ten days after the issuance of such an
order. The Act also describes penalties for violations of both OFPs
and No Contact Orders, orders issued against a defendant in criminal
proceedings for domestic violence, and describes how law enforcement
officials should enforce such orders. In addition, the Act includes
a number of provisions that facilitate victims’ access to the
legal system. For example, the Act waives the filing fees for orders
of protection and provides that an individual filing for an OFP may
request that his or her address not be disclosed to the public.
of Minnesota’s statutes criminalizes domestic violence. Under
this law, an individual commits the crime of domestic assault by causing
another to fear immediate bodily harm or death, or inflicting, or attempting
to inflict, such harm. Penalties are increased when the perpetrator
has previously committed one or more domestic assaults within a certain
period of time.
Minnesota has also enacted a domestic violence arrest law, Section
629.341, that allows officers to arrest an individual without a
warrant if there is probable cause to believe that the individual
domestic abuse, and that requires officers to provide victims of
domestic violence with notice of their legal rights.
of Minnesota’s statutes provides that police departments must
develop policies and protocols for dealing with domestic violence,
and explicitly requires police officers to assist victims in obtaining
medical treatment and providing the victim with a notice of his or
her legal rights.
New York State’s Domestic
Violence Prevention Act creates a comprehensive
network of services for victims of domestic violence. The Act requires
social services districts to offer emergency shelter and other
services, including advocacy, counseling and referrals. The Act
that receive funding under its provisions must to maintain a confidential
address and also mandates that other government agencies keep such
New York State’s law on warrantless
arrest permits localities to establish mandatory arrest regulations
The state’s law on criminal
procedures for family offenses directs officers
investigating “a family offense” under that provision to “advise
the victim of the availability of a shelter or other services in the
community” and to “immediately give the victim written
notice of the legal rights and remedies available to a victim of a
family offense.” This law provides an example of the kind of
information an officer might give to a victim, and mandates that the
notice be prepared in multiple languages if necessary.
New York State also passed a law
creating an Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. The
Office is charged with advising the governor and legislature “on the
most effective ways for state government to respond to the problem
of domestic violence” and to “develop and implement policies
and programs designed to assist victims of domestic violence and their
families, and to provide education and prevention, training and technical
Passes Tough New Domestic Violence Laws, Marie De Santis, Women’s Justice Center, provides an overview
of California’s new domestic violence law and discusses the
ways in which the law could be further improved. The California
includes links to Section 836, the state’s law on arrest, as
well as sections of Part 4 Title 5 of the Penal Code, governing the
law enforcement response to domestic violence.
contains provisions governing protections for victims of domestic
violence, including the issuance and enforcement of OFPs (called “protective
orders” under the Family Code), and the duties of law enforcement
of the General Laws of Massachusetts provides for the issuance
and enforcement of OFPs, the confidentiality of the victim’s address,
and the abuser’s surrender of weapons. Section
7 of Chapter 209A requires judges to conduct searches of a defendant’s
record “to determine whether the named defendant has a civil
or criminal record involving domestic or other violence,” sets
forth the warning about penalties for violation of an OFP that must
be provided to the batterer, and details the kinds of communications
that, when a batterer has been sentenced to a batterers’ treatment
program, should occur between the program, battered women’s shelters,
the court, and the probation office for the purpose of ensuring victim
safety and batterer accountability. Treatment for substance abuse may
be ordered “[i]n addition to, but not in lieu of” batterers’ treatment
programs. Finally, this provision requires the defendant to pay the
victim restitution for damages in the case of a violation of a restraining
order issued by another jurisdiction.
Sample Orders for Protection
The New York State court system offers on-line forms for filing for an Order for Protection.
The Minnesota state court system has also offered on-line access
to the forms required
for filing an Order for Protection.
Final Protection Order
was published by the Full Faith and Credit Project in June 2000.
Domestic Violence: Law and Policy | International
| Regional Law and Standards | Model
Legislation | Protocols and