New Hampshire’s Controversial Domestic Violence Bills Dropped - For Now
New Hampshire Republicans sought to scale back domestic violence laws by introducing two new bills. The first bill would have prevented authorities from immediate intervention unless they actually witnessed the crime occurring. The second bill would have limited the grounds for which officers could arrest violators of protective orders.
House Bill 1581 would have prevented law enforcement from arresting a suspected abuser who had assaulted his or her partner unless the officer has actually witnessed the crime taking place. This would mean that officers could see injuries, witnesses could describe an assault, there could be clear evidence that an assault took place, but the officer would actually have to leave the scene, go back to the police station, sit down, write a complaint warrant and affidavit, find a judge or justice of the peace, get them to sign it, go back, and attempt to arrest the suspect.
As if that were not alarming enough, the second bill, House Bill 1608 would have limited the grounds for which an officer could arrest an abuser who violates a domestic violence protective order, requiring an abuser to violate the restraining order against him or her three times before he or she could be arrested again. The bill would have removed a judge's discretionary power in ordering the arrest of a perpetrator before three restraining order violations. The bill would also would have removed a judge's ability to bar a domestic abuser from purchasing a gun or to require the abuser to relinquish weapons.
Dozens of people were set to testify against the bills including domestic homicide victim Melissa Charbonneau’s father, John Cantin. However, testifying was not necessary as the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Harold Reilly Sr., a retired police chief from Hebron, failed to show up at the hearing where he was expected to introduce the bills. They were dropped. Reilly sponsored the bills at the request of Plymouth prosecutor Gabriel Nizetick, who is expected to rework the language of the bills to introduce them again in the next session.
Melissa Charbonneau, 29, of Manchester, NH, was shot to death in 2009 by her estranged husband, Jonathan Charbonneau, when she went to the home she had shared with to pick up some of her belongings. He also shot her father, John Cantin, who survived. Charbonneau then committed suicide. Cantin and his wife have become advocates for domestic violence victims and were instrumental in changing New Hampshire’s law making strangulation a felony.