New Mexico

Bill to make obtaining orders of protection easier passes Senate committee

A bill designed to make it easier for survivors to obtain protective orders passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee unanimously.

SB 18, Rename Family Violence Act, swept the committee 8-0. Next up is the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 18, sponsored by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, fundamentally rewrites the Family Violence Protection Act to improve victims’ ability to seek a protection order and expand the list of reasons on which an order is issued can be. If the bill goes into effect, a survivor may seek a protection order to intimidate, threaten, or harm an individual in the event of kidnapping, false detention, disruption of communications, threat of disclosure of immigration status, injury, or threat of harming animals harass and unauthorized distribution of sensitive images.

Sedillo Lopez said the bill was the result of a Senate Memorial task force established a few years ago. The Task Force reviewed the Family Violence Protection Act and updated it with this bill.

“It (the Family Violence Protection Act) has been changed bit by bit over the years. The judges did different things,” she said.

She also said that the latest best practices are not being followed and that there is no “mutual protection order” written into the applicable law.

The bill will also allow a child as young as 13 to seek a protective order from a co-parent, an adult with whom the child has had an ongoing relationship, or if stalking or sexual abuse has occurred.

The draft law should also clarify the way to a protection order that a criminal complaint is not required. The bill also includes a provision to make the process easier to understand for people who do not speak English.

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department led the task force, which included judicial and law enforcement officials and advocacy groups, to discuss the difficulties individuals face when applying for protective orders in New Mexico.

There were two changes, one adding that the law will come into effect on July 1, 2023 when it comes into force. The other amendment cleaned up some language.

State Senator Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, asked what happens next if the court doesn’t issue a protective order.

Sedillo Lopez said the person could gather more evidence and request a second hearing.

“We want to make it easier for individuals to understand. They don’t claim enough in the initial filing. So often they go in and don’t tell the whole story,” she said.

State Senator David Gallegos, R-Eunice, said there are Lea County attorneys who “like the bill.”

Sedillo Lopez said the bill “offers a lot more clarity.”

“Most of the changes are consistent with their species [judges] filled in the gaps,” she said.

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