Position Statement – 2017
Update and Simplification of the Domestic Violence Victim’s Rights Notice
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) supports bill A.5921 (Weinstein), which would amend the family court act and criminal procedure law in relation to notification of rights to victims of domestic violence in criminal and family court proceedings. The Victim’s Rights Notice, originally enacted in 1994, was designed to ensure that victims were made aware of their rights, of the expectations they may have to obtain assistance from civil and criminal justice systems, and of the remedies and resources available to them. The notice was required to be distributed as part of a victim’s copy of the Domestic Incident Report, and has been promulgated by the Office of Court Administration in eight languages.
When law enforcement intervenes in a domestic violence call, this notice is required to be immediately shared with the victim in writing and, if necessary, orally. The bill also requires the notice to be available in plain English, Spanish, Chinese and Russian. The notice must also be provided by a District Attorney investigating a family offense, and by all family courts to victims of family offenses. The notice shall also be distributed to the state Department of Health for distribution to all hospitals.
While some form of the Victim’s Rights Notice has been in effect for over twenty years, the Notice has not been substantially changed. A.5921 substantially simplifies the Notice so that it is now in plain language that is much more clear and understandable to victims in crisis of all literacy levels, while at the same time expanding considerably on the information it provides. The bill also incorporates changes in the law that have taken place since the Notice was first developed. The bill also requires that the Victim’s Rights Notice be translated into, at a minimum, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.
The revised Notice reads at an average 8.7 (middle school) level, in contrast to the 14.0 (college level) average of the current notice and provides critical information to domestic violence victims throughout New York State. The information is broken down into shorter sentences with easier to read bullet points. It provides victims with basic yet detailed and straightforward information about their rights and remedies under the law, important information about emergency domestic violence hotlines and services, legal and medical resources, what to expect from law enforcement, including what assistance may be immediately available to them when they first call law enforcement, and what remedies may be available through criminal and family courts.
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York supports A.5921.