Two bills seek to strengthen protections for victims of family violence
Two bills intended to protect victims and witnesses of family violence and other crimes have been introduced by Vice Speaker and Senator Therese Terlaje. One gives judges the power to impose electronic monitoring on those accused of violence against family members and the other attempts to more accurately define what constitutes family violence.
Electronic monitoring would be a condition to get out of jail for persons charged with family violence and other crimes under Bill No. 177-34 (COR). This bill is intended to ensure the protection of victims and witnesses to family violence, and is motivated by news reports of persons committing further acts of violence after arrest and pending trial. A particular case is the 2013 death of Emma Catapang Cepeda, who was shot to death in her home at the age of 35 by her estranged husband while he was on pretrial release on charges of terrorizing and family violence.
Cases in Guam and other jurisdictions have proven that arrest, protective orders and strict release conditions issued by the courts are sometimes not enough to deter further violence on release pending trial. Electronic monitoring systems that notify victims and law enforcement when a defendant violates a stay-away order may help to ensure victims’ safety pending trial.
Bill No. 175-34 (COR) attempts to clarify the existing definition of family violence following the Supreme Court of Guam reversal earlier this month of a family violence conviction due its opinion that the existing law is unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court of Guam in People v. Shimizu, determined that the language in the statute defining “family violence” as including “placing a family or household member in fear of bodily injury” did not provide fair notice to ordinary citizens as to what conduct it prohibits, and it did not establish minimal guidelines to govern law enforcement.
“Family violence has long lasting impacts to our entire community. It is my hope that these measures will prevent another death, and empower victims to live without fear of further harm to them or their children. Prevention of further tragedy is our priority and deserves the best use of our resources, such as electronic monitoring systems,” said Vice Speaker Terlaje.