- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland lawmakers heard testimony from victims of domestic violence on Tuesday about how proposed changes in the law would increase protections for them.

Brandy King, of Sykesville, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that the current law does not enable her to get a final protective order against her ex-husband, who was convicted of second-degree assault in 2004 for physically abusing her.

One of the measures before legislators would change the law by adding second-degree assault to the list of crimes for which a person can obtain a final protective order. It also would require that an abuser only be sentenced to at least five years in prison, as opposed to serving at least five years before the victim can obtain a permanent final protective order.

“I simply wish to live my life in peace without any further contact from the man who has harmed me since 2002,” King said. “I would like to get a permanent protective order, but because of the way the law is written now I can’t get a permanent protective order.”

The proposed change to the law is one of three Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration is sponsoring.

Another measure would make it easier for victims to obtain a final peace order or final protective order by reducing the standard of evidence needed to get one. The standard of evidence would be changed from “clear and convincing” to “a preponderance of the evidence.” Maryland is the only state in the nation that uses the higher standard of proof for final protective orders.

A third measure would enable courts to impose an additional five years in prison on someone who commits domestic violence in front of a child.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is leading the administration’s efforts to pass the legislation this year. Brown had been scheduled to testify on Tuesday. Jared Smith, a spokesman for Brown, said the lieutenant governor was with his family, because his father has moved from a hospital to hospice care.

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