Domestic Violence, Equal Pay Laws Take Effect

New laws will take effect in New Hampshire as the new year begins

Laws strengthening protections for victims of domestic violence, banning retaliation against employees who discuss their wages in the workplace and criminalizing the financial exploitation of seniors take effect in New Hampshire as the new year begins.

The 2014 legislative session was a landmark gathering for domestic violence related bills, led by the passage of "Joshua's Law," a bill named for a young boy killed by his father in a Manchester murder-suicide. The bill makes domestic violence its own category of crime, rather than designating crimes between intimate partners or family members as assault or another charge.

The change will help police, the courts, child protection services and advocates better monitor patterns of abuse and aid victims.

"The law represents the most comprehensive reorganization of our criminal code in two decades, and it's legislation that truly has the power to save lives," said Amanda Grady Sexton, public policy director for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Another new law gives women who become pregnant as the result of rape more avenues to terminate the parental rights of their rapists. Judges previously had the ability to terminate rights if the father was convicted of rape, but the coalition notes that only three percent of such assaults in New Hampshire result in convictions.

Under the updated law, women whose rapists are not convicted may seek termination of parental rights at a fact-finding hearing. If a judge finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the child is the result of nonconsensual sex, the judge is required to terminate the father's parental rights, if it is in the best interests of the child.

Beyond domestic violence laws, updates to the state's equal pay law also become effective Thursday. It is now illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who discuss their wages while in the workplace. The law also extends the time people can file complaints about pay disparities from one to three years after discovering the issue.

Also in 2015, adultery is no longer a crime in New Hampshire, and it's illegal to financially exploit an elderly, disabled or impaired adult.

In July, it will become illegal to use a hand-held electronic device while driving.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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