In an effort to generate money for underfunded domestic violence programs in the State, lawmakers have proposed legislation establishing a fine for persons convicted of domestic violence and increasing the marriage license fee.
State Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry proposed the amendment to HB681 that would establish a mandatory, minimum fine of $50 for each domestic violence conviction under Joshua’s Law, the State’s new domestic violence law, which passed last year.
“Before Joshua’s Law, people could be charged under different statutes, but we didn’t have one statute that addressed domestic violence itself,” Carson said. “The bill consolidated it so there’s now one statute that deals with domestic violence.”
Money generated from the new fine Carson proposed would go straight to domestic violence programs in New Hampshire.
The bill also increases from $45 to $50 the marriage license fee, which has helped support the State’s 14 crisis centers in the face of substantial funding cuts.
“We used to give them quite a bit of money, but because we’re still recovering from the recession, we’re not able to give as much as before,” Carson said.
The Domestic Violence Prevention Program is primarily supported through a portion of the State marriage license fees ($38 of each $45 license).
Domestic violence programs that have been underfunded since drastic cuts in 2011 could receive more than $45,000 in new funding if the bill Carson has co-sponsored passes.
The only concern raised with her amendment was language making the fine mandatory.
Ultimately, legislators agreed in a Committee of Conference on June 16 to a compromise that will allow those who can’t pay the fine in full to set up a payment plan with the court.
“I think it’s fair people convicted of engaging in this type of behavior should have to pay the fine to go to the programs that assist victims of domestic violence,” Carson said.
“Some have argued that this new fine creates an undue burden on convicted domestic violence offenders, but we believe that the burden batterers place on their victims and society is far greater than $50,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Policy for the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, in a press release. “The committee’s action today is a positive step toward keeping New Hampshire’s most vulnerable safe, and we hope that the full House and Senate will support their recommendation and pass this critical legislation.”