State Rep. Helena Moreno.
Louisiana legislators took steps to broaden and strengthen the state’s domestic violence and protection laws Sunday when they gave the OK to two Senate amended measures, House Bills 223 and 509. The bills now will move to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk for his expected signature.
House Bill 223, by state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, would expand the state’s domestic violence laws to cover dating partners. Current law restricts the criminal charge to couples who are married or living together, meaning offenders who are not living with or married to their victim can only be charged with simple battery.
Extending the law will offer increased protection to victims and enhanced sentencing for offenders, including stronger sentences for strangulation, burning or the presence of a firearm, as well as access to domestic abuse intervention programs.
The bill extending coverage — including same-sex couples — passed on a 66-32 vote.
A piece of related legislation, House Bill 509, by state Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, passed with little opposition. Schroder’s bill will strengthen penalties for violators of protective orders for offenses committed with and without violence.
A first-time violator breaching an order without committing violence could be fined up to $500 and imprisoned for up to six months. On a second offense, the criminal would be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned between two weeks and two years.
The bill took an even stronger stance on offenses involving violence, including imprisoning the offender for between three months and two years on a first offense and between one and five years on subsequent offenses.
Additionally, the bill barred defendants from contacting the victim or the victim’s family members while the case is pending.