New bill would tighten requirements for protection

9:19 am | February 25, 2013

Timothy Hill says his new legislation is an attempt to avoid abuse of the judicial system by making it tougher to get orders of protection.

But the director of a local domestic violence prevention group says it could put more women in danger.

The state representative’s bill, introduced last week, would raise the level of proof needed for a judge to grant a one-year order of protection in cases of domestic abuse, stalking or sexual assault; the bar would be raised from a “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.”

The two legal terms represent different degrees of proof.

A “preponderance of evidence” means more than a 50-percent likelihood that the charge is true, while “clear and convincing evidence” means there’s a substantially higher chance that the charge is true than not true.

“I’ve been approached by multiple constituents asking me to review the procedure to obtain orders of protection,” said Hill, a Republican who represents portions of Sullivan and Carter counties and all of Johnson County. “The mechanism of an order of protection is a good thing, it’s put there to help folks be safe, but the concerns that were brought to me is that it’s often abused by folks that don’t need it who are using it as a weapon in some types of relationships.”

The freshman legislator said he introduced the measure as a “caption bill” to explore the potential abuse of orders of protection, and the final draft of the legislation might be very different.

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