Maryland extends protections for victims of domestic violence

The Maryland General Assembly passed laws this year that become effective October 1, 2012. These laws added two new protections to victims of domestic violence.

First, victims who are forced to leave their employment to escape the threat of domestic violence will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This law makes it easier for victims to come forward to challenge their abusers. It takes away the hurdle of losing their means of supporting themselves in the short term and allows them to apply for unemployment benefits.

Normally, someone must be laid off or the position terminated prior to applying for unemployment. This new law removes a hurdle for victims of domestic violence as it prevents employers from denying benefits if the victim voluntarily quits a position.

The second law requires judges to report whether or not defendants are found to have had a “domestically-related relationship” with their victims. If they have, a notation will be added to their criminal record that indicates they have committed a domestic violence-related crime. That will be used by law enforcement to monitor domestic violence offenders.

It’s up to judges to determine the extent of the relationship and mark it in criminal records at the time of sentencing, allowing other law enforcement to access information to quickly distinguish whether a crime is domestic violence-related.