A previous law addressing the issue was struck down by the state Court of Appeals on the grounds that the law was “unconstitutionally vague,” but Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said the law is a vital component in safeguarding abuse victims.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable for a law that provides much-needed protection to victims to be off the books,” Lentol said. “This legislation provides the necessary corrections to make sure the original intent of the law can continue to be carried out.”
The bill would criminalize any form of intentional harassing communications that knowingly threaten to harm either individuals or their property.
With an estimated 7,600 cases currently open statewide where second-degree harassment is the top charge, Lentol said the bill would particularly be important to victims of domestic violence as it would provide grounds for issuing a restraining order.
“Domestic violence has psychological ramifications, and it’s often difficult for victims to seek protection because of the emotional nature of the situation,” he said. “Without the protection of this law, victims are being discouraged from pressing charges or seeking legal help that could be life saving.”
The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV) Commissioner Rosemonde Pierre-Louis said one of the larger misconceptions with intimate partner violence is that it is often narrowly perceived as incidents of physical abuse.
“Yet before the behavior escalates to physical violence, there is frequently a pattern of verbal abuse or ongoing harassing communication that can be just as frightening,” Pierre Louis said.
She added that the new legislation would have a sweeping impact to combat the roughly 2,000 police complaints filed in the city this year alone.
“This new legislation will ensure that law enforcement will continue to have the tools necessary to protect victims against this abusive behavior and from possible escalation,” she said.