Assembly legislation would punish abuse when child is present

Perpetrators who commit domestic abuse in the presence of a child would be subject to harsher penalties under legislation approved by the General Assembly Thursday.

The House's 136-1 vote for the bill completes the approval of Gov. Martin O'Malley's domestic violence agenda for this year. The legislature previously passed measures easing the burden of proof for victims of domestic violence to obtain protective court orders. It also added the common domestic abuse crime of second-degree assault to the list of crimes eligible for permanent orders for an abuser to stay away from a victim.

The bill passed Thursday allows a judge to impose an additional jail sentence of up to five years on a person convicted of committing a domestic assault when a minor at least 2 years old is within sight or hearing of the attack.

O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who took a leading role in pushing for the bill, both released statements congratulating the Assembly on the bill's passage. "By giving judges the ability to add time to the sentences of those who commit acts of violence in front of a child in a home, we're going to protect our children from the abusers who threaten their lives and their futures," Brown said.

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