By Haley Viccaro, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation today to strengthen the domestic violence laws in the state.
Under the new law, repeat offenders will face an increase from a penalty to a felony crime and judges will consider more risk factors when determining bail.
Also, a person charged with murder or manslaughter of a family member will not have the right to the victim's remains. The measure was adopted by lawmakers in June after an accused murderer in Tonawanda, Erie County, for months had refused to hand over his wife's remains for a funeral in 2009.
Another case in 2009 happened in Orchard Park, where 46-year-old Muzzammil Hassan was allowed to control his wife's remains after he beheaded her at the Bridges TV studios.
"This new law will make it a felony crime for criminals who repeatedly harm their families and ensure that they are stopped," Cuomo said in a news release.
The domestic violence laws include the creation of a Class E aggravated family offense. People with a previous conviction toward a family member in the past five years will be prosecuted if they commit an additional low-level offense.
"The legislation closes a considerable gap in the current law and adds a critical layer of protection to ensure the safety of both domestic violence victims and their families," Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
A fatality review team will be created by the state's office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence to study and prevent partner homicides in local communities, Cuomo said. The team will report its reviews to the governor and Legislature with the goal to improve prevention.
The state is also creating a domestic violence court for parolees will be created to regulate the parole violation process and provide safety for victims and families. High-risk teams and online training for law enforcement will also be implemented for risk assessment and response training.
Cuomo cited statistics from the U.S. Surgeon General that said domestic violence is the number one problem that affects women, and offenders return to the same victim about 70 percent to 80 percent of the time.
The new law includes a provision to prohibit a person who was the subject of an order of protection obtained by a deceased person or charged in the death of the person from having control over the remains.
"Western New York has witnessed too many tragedies involving a murderer being able to control their victims' remains because they are also the spouse of the victim," said Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, Erie County, who sponsored the bill.