DA Cyrus Vance: Beating Your Wife Shouldn't Be Like "Jumping A Subway Turnstile"

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was in Albany today, where he spoke to the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence as part of the group's "Legislative Awareness Day."

His message was simple: beating your wife is "the same crime as jumping the subway turnstile."

No, the district attorney did not commit political suicide by comparing the seriousness of jumping a subway turnstile to beating your wife -- his point is that, under the current law, the penalties for each crime are similar, which is something he wants changed.

"We must remedy the flaws in existing state law that allow a misdemeanor repeat domestic abuser to be treated the same way on his first offense as he is on his hundredth," Vance said during his speech. "And it's the same crime as jumping the subway turnstile. That is not justice for victims."

(NOTE: we did not attend the speech, but Vance's office provided us with a written copy).

Vance says the solution to the problem is a legislative one -- he proposes that a class E felony be created for repeat domestic violence offenders.

A proposal similar to the one Vance laid out today passed in the Assembly last year, but didn't make it through the Senate.

Vance's plan would make it so any repeat offender who commits two or more qualifying crimes within a five year period would get hit with a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. 

From Vance's speech:

This felony charge for repeat offenders will do several things to break the cycle of abuse. First, it sends a message to abusers and victims that the criminal justice system does not tolerate recurring acts of domestic violence. Second, families would be better protected from continued violence, because felony orders of protection last almost twice as long as those available in misdemeanor case. Under this felony charge, perpetrators of domestic violence would at a minimum be eligible for probation supervision for five years. In more serious cases, judges would have the discretion to sentence repeat abusers to time in state prison. Finally, when incarceration is necessary and appropriate, these felony offenders would have much better access to re-entry and rehabilitative programs. Judges would also have the discretion to require offenders to participate in proven treatment programs.

Vance tells the tragic tales of two women -- a 19-year-old and a 25-year-old -- each of whom were murdered by their significant other. In each case, there was a history of domestic violence -- the DA says his plan would help prevent cases like those from happening in the future.

Click here for more info on the NYSCADV.

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