Law aims to help domestic violence victims

Victims of domestic violence and abuse would get more protection from defendants under a bill passed unanimously by the Virginia House of Delegates this week.

House Bill 2106 would allow judges to require Virginians who are facing criminal charges, have violated a protective order or are on probation to wear GPS tracking devices.

The tracking devices would alert law enforcement agencies and/or the victim if the defendant comes too close to the complainant or the complainant’s house or workplace, according to the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Ward L. Armstrong, D-Martinsville.

He dubbed HB 2106 the Linda Bostwick Act in memory of a Collinsville resident killed by her estranged husband in 2007.

Bostwick had obtained a protective order against the man, and he had violated the order previously, Armstrong said. He said the estranged husband shot Bostwick to death at her workplace and then killed himself.

Bostwick’s death prompted Jeff and Kim Adkins to ask Armstrong to propose legislation allowing judges to require Virginians who violate protective orders to wear tracking devices.

Jeff Adkins was Bostwick’s employer when she was killed; his wife Kim is the mayor of Martinsville.

“Jeff and Kim came to me and said they had been looking over the Internet where they saw GPS technology being used to track persons in a criminal context, and it would be a good idea if we could implement (the technology) in a protective order situation,” Armstrong said.

If such a law had been in effect in 2007, Armstrong said, “Linda Bostwick could have been given some advanced notice coming to her place of employment – she would have had time to get away.”

Armstrong proposed similar legislation last year, but the bill was referred to the Virginia State Crime Commission for study. The commission reviewed and approved HB 2106 before this session.

Last week, the House Courts of Justice Committee unanimously endorsed the measure. The House followed suit on Tuesday by voting 99-0 in favor of the bill.

Some legislators had concerns about who would pay for the tracking technology. Under HB 2106, the violators of protective orders required to wear the devices will pay for the devices, Armstrong said. He said that’s only fair.

“You’re getting not just someone that has a protective order against them, but it is someone who’s demonstrated a propensity to thumb their nose at the court or the judicial system and not abide by the law,” Armstrong said. “In that situation, they ought to pay for it.”

After the House passed the bill, Armstrong said, “Although this was a terrible tragedy, the death of Linda Bostwick has spurred legislation that will save other victims who find themselves in her situation. My appreciation goes out to Jeff and Kim Adkins for suggesting this important way to fight domestic violence.”

Kim Adkins said the legislation might spare other people from Bostwick’s fate.

“Prior to this legislation, Friends for Linda had been advocating for a new law requiring habitual offenders of protective orders to wear GPS tracking devices,” Kim Adkins said.

“We are convinced this new law will do more to help victims of domestic violence and stalking. Our intent was to put a name and face with the positive impact this law may have on these victims and their families. The Linda Bostwick Act is going to save lives.”

HB 2106 is now under consideration by the Senate.

To track or comment on House Bill 2106, visit: http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/hb2106
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