The ways the Arizona legal system looks at domestic violence changed Dec. 13.
Gov. Janet Napolitano signed two senate bills that increase safe haven for domestic violence victims and toughen laws for abusers.
Domestic violence victims who are fleeing an abuser may terminate rental agreements without incurring early termination penalties or fees with the enactment of Senate Bill 1227.
The bill says, that is a tenant provides written 30-day notice and a copy of a restraining order, a court, or police report, he or she can be released from a lease. The tenant must pay any rent owed and any outstanding debt up to the date of termination, the new law says.
"Rental agreements make a difficult situation more so when a victim is stuck in a lease and can't get out. Victims definitely need something to release them from the agreement. They have enough danger in their lives," Darlene Curly, the director of operations at the local domestic violence shelter, Time Out.
SB1424 stipulates that "a person is guilty of aggravated domestic violence if the person commits a third or subsequent domestic violence offense within a seven-year period instead of the current five years. The punishment for this Class 5 felony is four months in jail for the third offense and at least eight months for the fourth or more."
Payson Police Chief Don Engler said the law probably increases his departments' workloads because of follow-up procedures after the initial charges.
"But, I think it enhances law enforcement's ability to track repetitive offenders and it increases the state's ability to enforce its domestic violence laws," he said.
The bills were co-sponsored by Senate president Tim Bee, R-Tucson and Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix.
"The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence is thrilled that two such important bills were passed last session after two years of working to enact them," coalition systems advocate, Lindsay Simmons said.