Senate Approves New Protections for Domestic Violence Victims



HARRISBURG – Victims of domestic violence would be better protected against retribution from their abusers under a bill approved by the Senate today, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).

Senate Bill 449, also known as Tierne’s Law, clarifies existing law that allows judges to use risk assessment tools when setting bail in domestic violence cases. These tools have proven to be effective in predicting an abuser’s odds of re-offending and creating a dangerous circumstance for victims, Bartolotta said.

The bill was named in honor of Tierne Ewing, a Washington County resident who was kidnapped and later murdered by her estranged husband in August 2016. The killer had been arrested a few weeks prior to the kidnapping for domestic violence and other offenses, but was granted bail in spite of the prosecutor’s request for bail to be raised or revoked.

“Far too often, judges have no way of knowing which offenders pose a significant risk to victims when they set bail. Without the use of risk assessment tools, we run the risk of dangerous abusers being released to continue to terrorize their victims,” Bartolotta said. “Expanding the use of risk assessment tools will ultimately lead to fewer senseless tragedies involving domestic violence.”

Last year, Pennsylvania assisted more than 89,000 victims of domestic violence. Ewing was one of 102 domestic violence homicide victims in 2016. Eight of those victims lived in the counties Bartolotta represents.

Bartolotta’s bill was developed with input from district attorneys, domestic violence experts and others who have an interest in improving the judicial system’s ability to protect victims. The legislation was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463