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'Gwen's Law' enacted to curb Louisiana domestic violence

A series of new laws to protect victims of violence were signed into law recently in Louisiana. The legislation is aimed at lowering Louisiana's No. 2 ranking among states with the highest number of killings linked to domestic violence. One bill was named for a Grand Cane woman, who died less than a month before Gov. Bobby Jindal signed "Gwen's Law."

The law permits courts to order a defendant jailed without bail when the individual is charged with a felony against a dating partner or family or household member. Evidence presented during a contradictory bail hearing could compel a judge to decide a defendant's freedom poses a danger to alleged victims. Gwen was murdered by her husband while he was out on bail. The man committed suicide after he killed his wife.

Gwen died shortly after her spouse's arrest on charges of with unlawful weapons possession, false imprisonment and aggravated assault with a firearm. The felonies related to a domestic dispute between the spouses. Under Gwen's Law, the estranged husband could have been held in custody or released on bail, provided the defendant wore an electronic monitor.

The governor's signature also was applied to bills that speed up the transfer of abuse-related restraining orders to police departments and redefines domestic abuse aggravated assault as a violent crime. Domestic violence evidence also may be used to obtain divorces quickly and file liability claims against abusers.

Governor Jindal also promised to sign another proposal to set up a commission to study the state's domestic violence programs. Another bill that would have prevented Louisiana landlords from evicting domestic abuse victims was rejected by the House. State lawmakers thought the measure unfairly made landlords vulnerable to possible lawsuits.

Family laws protect spouses, dating partners, domestic partners and children from violence. An attorney can help secure an order of protection and collect evidence to keep an abuser behind bars.

Source: The Advocate, "Jindal signs domestic violence bills" Marsha Shuler, May. 30, 2014

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