Partial Credit Tribune Review
A proposed state law that would use electronic monitoring to try to protect people who have obtained protection-from-abuse orders is raising alarms at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which says the law would hamper the freedom of people who haven’t been convicted of any crime.
The proposal, which the state Senate approved on a 50-0 vote Tuesday, would allow judges to require electronic monitoring of people with PFA orders against them.
“That’s just basically one step below house arrest for those people,” said Nyssa Taylor, ACLU Pennsylvania’s criminal justice policy counsel. “That’s an extraordinary restriction on someone’s liberty without due process.”
Senators named the proposal “Alina’s Law,” after Alina Sheykhet, the 20-year-old Pitt student who was killed Oct. 2. Sheykhet obtained a PFA against ex-boyfriend Matthew Darby, 21, before he allegedly killed her. Darby is charged with homicide in her death.
Less than three weeks before Darby is alleged to have killed Sheykhet, police charged him with criminal trespassing after they said he climbed a downspout and broke into Sheykhet’s home. That incident prompted Sheykhet to seek the PFA.
State Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, a co-sponsor of the proposal, said the legislation could help protect people like Sheykhet, noting that Darby faced rape charges in another case in Indiana County at the time of her death.
“To me those are all potential signs that a judge could look at and say electronic monitoring would be appropriate in this type of situation,” Costa said, adding that a judge would not be required to order monitoring.
Electronic monitoring typically comes up during sentencing, after a person has been found guilty of a crime, or during bail hearings, if a person is thought to be a flight risk, the ACLU’s Taylor said. PFAs often are granted much earlier in the legal process, and allowing a judge to order monitoring at that stage would deprive people with PFAs against them of fundamental legal protections, she said.
People can seek preliminary PFAs until a final PFA is granted. The law would provide for devices such as ankle bracelets to be used by police to track the location of a person with a PFA against them for up to three years. They would be prevented from getting close to a protected person’s home, business or places they frequent.
Costa said he thinks the language of the bill would also allow a judge to order monitoring under a preliminary PFA, but that language is more loosely written.
Taylor said the law could also create a false sense of safety among people who have sought and obtained PFAs. Someone with an ankle monitor could cut it off, she said.
Costa acknowledged a determined abuser could get around the proposed law’s protections, but described it as a step forward.
Across the state, 38,764 new PFA applications were filed in 2016. Of those, nearly 89 percent were granted. Last year, 102 domestic violence victims were killed across the state.
In Allegheny County, 94 percent of the 3,765 requested PFAs were granted in 2016. Nine county residents were killed by domestic violence in that time.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence supports the legislation.
This new law makes no sense at all. I am a victim of a false PFA, here is a link to the past story and the damages I sustained by a pig that filed this false PFA on me. Click the link, it is worth the read and shows how the system is abused.
Let me mind you, this is the same girl that went on to accuse her own child of raping her entire family. Here is the link to that, you can see this girl is not in the right mind…but for a person I do not know all that much, it was easy for her to get a PFA on me.
It took me a year to get this PFA dismissed. For this year even though I was convicted of nothing, under this new law the state could have put me on tracking. I would have to pay close to $500.00 a month for this tracking. All for this to be dismissed.
And the sad thing is there is nothing legally or criminally that can be done when a person files a wrongful PFA as it is civil.
The laws need changed, but this is not a positive change.