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Does Georgia need tougher domestic violence laws?

Here in Georgia, victims of domestic violence can often obtain a temporary restraining order very quickly. This is done by petitioning the court for an ex parte restraining order, which allows the victim to get a restraining order without a hearing or even any response from the alleged abuser. While this is a very important step that victims can take to protect themselves and their children from an abuser, some critics have complained that Georgia's laws fall short when it comes to preventing domestic violence.

These critics take issue with the fact that those who have a temporary restraining order against them in Georgia are still allowed to keep weapons. In Cherokee County, when a temporary restraining order is issued deputies do go out to attempt to seize weapons, but this is not always effective. The deputies do not have search warrants to do this, so some people lie and say that they have no weapons.

Many people believe that a mandatory surrender of weapons is necessary in order to protect victims of domestic violence. In fact, victims of domestic violence are often most at risk of violence shortly after leaving an abuser. So, in many cases, an abuser might become most dangerous right after a temporary restraining order has been issued--and this is why some say that law enforcement authorities should be empowered to seize all weapons from those under a restraining order.

A news article on the topic points to the tragic story of Donna Kristofak. Two months after a temporary protective order was issued against her estranged husband, and she told a judge that she feared for her life, she was murdered by him.

Temporary protective orders are still very important even though they do not offer complete protection for victims. In May, lawmakers in Georgia passed a bill that allows the immediate arrest of anyone who violates a temporary protective order. Eliminating the time-consuming step of putting the case before a judge offers a great protection to victims.

Perhaps, Georgia's laws do need to be emboldened in order to protect victims of domestic violence before it is too late. For now, however, victims should take advantage of the tools that are at their disposal. This includes contacting a family law attorney in order to obtain a temporary or permanent restraining order, as well as working with victims' rights advocates in order to set up a safe exit plan.

Source: wsbtv.com, "Critics push for stronger domestic violence laws," May 21, 2013

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