This article was originally published on The Sentinel by Matt Heckel on January 10, 2017.
HARRISBURG – Following the shooting death of a Pennsylvania state trooper while he was investigating a Protection From Abuse violation in Huntingdon County, one group is now recommending some changes to the current PFA laws.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence says the death of 23-year-old Trooper Landon Weaver highlights the need to shore up gaps in the current laws regarding PFAs.
The group is focusing on eight recommendations made by the Joint State Government Commission at the end of the 2015-2016 legislative session.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence plans to re-introduce a Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention measure in the 2017 legislative session, which would address many of the recommendations.
“Our ultimate goal is to keep people alive. It’s such a tragic situation each time a life is lost, because we’ve seen far too many domestic violence, murder-suicides in the last several months. And most recently, the murder of a trooper out in Huntingdon County, who was merely investigating a violation of a protection order,” said Ellen Kramer, the deputy director of the PCADV. “Our goal is to keep victims and family members and the community and law enforcement, who put their lives on the line every day for our victims, safe and alive.”
According to a news release by the PCADV, the recommendations include:
Empower courts to issue search and seizure orders for weapons as part of their PFA orders, if there is cause to believe the defendant has weapons and may use them against the victim.
Eliminate the family exemption from background checks for transfers of handguns.
Amend the current provision that allows defendants to place their weapons in the hands of third-party safe keepers. PCADV supports the recommendation that the third-party safekeeping option be abolished completely.
Enhance safety for victims by requiring that sheriffs, deputies or other officers serve protection orders.
Before setting bail, courts should use a risk assessment tool to evaluate potential danger to the victim.
Authorize courts to extend or reinstate an expired PFA order when an incarcerated defendant is about to be released and the court concludes that they pose a continuing threat to the victim.
Encourage local law enforcement to use active GPS monitoring of abusers to provide real-time notice to victims that their abusers are in their vicinity.
Clarify, through statute, the roles of dating violence, teen dating violence and same sex relationships in order to improve interpretation of the law. The Commission notes that these changes are not vital to closing any perceived gaps in the PFA Act.