Governor Maggie Hassan is expected to sign into a law a bill that would create “Joshua’s Law,” named after a young boy who was shot and killed by his father at a Manchester visitation center last year. The law does not change current law or enhance penalties, but rather it gathers all of the existing laws under one section of the state’s criminal code. New Hampshire is currently one of only 15 states that does not have a separate classification for domestic violence.
Gov. Hassan said in a news release shortly after the Senate passed the bill, “Passing Joshua’s Law to establish a crime of domestic violence is a common-sense step that will improve the safety of our families by helping law enforcement and prosecutors better identify and stop repeat abusers. The measure will also increase understanding of domestic violence and help victims access support and protections as early as possible.”
Currently someone who assaults or makes a threat toward a domestic partner or family member could face charges under one of 17 state statues – including simple assault, criminal threatening, or others. The new law would allow law enforcement to charge an assailant with domestic violence, which would be treated different than assault by a stranger. Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice has said this change would improve the accuracy of state records, which would lead to improved federal reporting. Currently the state does not have a crime of domestic violence which leads to chronic abusers going unrecognized, according to some state officials.