No victim of domestic violence, or other person threatened with violence or in jeopardy of harm, should fail to access police or emergency assistance when needed because of the fear that doing so may result in losing their housing through eviction or other actions to remove them from the property. Some local laws or policies have the effect of treating such requests for police or emergency aid as a disturbance constituting a “public nuisance” or otherwise treating the individual faced with the violence and in need of assistance as an undesirable tenant or undesirable influence on the neighborhood based upon a call for help to their home. Legislation is needed to assure that victims of violence or threats of harm or violence are not penalized in relation to any law enforcement activity and intervention necessary to address offender accountability and victim safety.
Municipalities throughout the state have increasingly begun to adopt local laws and ordinances to address public nuisances or other intrusions on the quiet enjoyment of their residents and communities. Despite their intent to aid communities, overly broad ordinances have instead had a harmful chilling effect deterring victims of violence and crime from accessing police assistance and have jeopardized public safety. They also can unfairly penalize landlords when their tenants need emergency assistance. Courts in New York and other states have found such public ordinances to be unconstitutional because of these harms. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued guidance in 2016 on how these ordinances can violate the Fair Housing Act’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex, race, disability, and national origin.
Given the negative impact that certain provisions have on the community at large, and to victims of crime in particular, remedial legislation is necessary that will both protect the rights of domestic violence and crime victims and others to access essential police and emergency assistance, as well as preserve the locality’s right to address conduct that may undermine the community’s safety or integrity.
The legislature therefore finds that it is desirable to clarify the law in this area in order to protect people from violence and crime.
The legislature further finds that there is a need to assure that victims of violence, including persons threatened with harm or violence, have a clear right to access assistance to protect personal or public safety.
The legislature further finds that clarification in this area will advance the state’s interest in stopping crime and further the aims of penal laws that depend on citizens to report incidents of crime to law enforcement.
The legislature finally finds that there is a need to assure that people who need emergency assistance, including persons with disabilities, have a clear right to access assistance without fear of penalty or reprisal.
With this remedial legislation the legislature specifically intends that the coverage of this article includes, but is not limited to, laws or ordinances that use any form of cumulative point system for the purpose of identifying any persons or properties who or which would be subject to municipal enforcement action.