Pols hope to make test site for tracking devices
Late bill would force those who violate restraining orders to be monitored
Men and women accused of violating restraining orders in Prince George's County would be required to wear tracking devices under a new bill by Del. Ben Barnes (D-Dist. 21) of College Park.
Prince George's delegates voted March 26 for the bill, which is modeled after a statewide measure that died in the legislature four days earlier.
Under the amended version of the bill, anyone in Prince George's County accused of violating a protective order would have to wear an electronic monitoring device while they are on probation to ensure they do not go near an estranged spouse or partner.
"These are people who it has already been proven that they've violated an order not to go near the victim," Barnes said. "If they're still harassing, abusing or otherwise mistreating the victim, this will help notify the police and, more importantly, the victim."
There have been several proposals to monitor protective order violators with ankle bracelets in the legislature this year. In addition to the two statewide bills that have been killed in committee, officials in Washington County are also asking for their own pilot program.
Washington County's program stems from a December 2007 double-murder where a woman and police officer were shot and killed by an estranged father. The man, Douglas Pryor, is now serving a life sentence for the deaths. At the time of the killings, he had violated a protective order by the woman.
Barnes said it is important that the state try out the devices in Prince George's, which has more densely populated areas than in Washington County, a rural Western Maryland county in the mountains.
"It really needs to be tested in an urban setting," Barnes told the county house delegation, which voted for localizing the bill at their meeting March 26.
The bill faced one key opponent at the local meeting: Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Dist. 27A) of Upper Marlboro. Vallario, a defense attorney, chairs the House Judiciary Committee that has voted down the statewide measures.
Vallario said that amending the bill so late in the legislature violates the public's chance to weigh in on the issue at a public hearing.
It is unclear how many people could be required to be monitored if the bill passes. Prince George's County issues about 5,000 protective orders a year, the most in the state, but it is not clear how many people are on probation for violating those orders.
Under state law, any person who feels threatened by another can file for a temporary 30-day protective order with the courts. After the first month, a judge holds a hearing to determine if the order should be made permanent.
House Bill 665 faces a full House vote in the next week. It would still need to pass the Senate by mid-April to become law.