Governor's domestic violence bills get final approval

Two domestic violence bills on Gov. Martin O'Malley's wish list won final passage in the General Assembly Monday night, pushing his agenda closer to completion.

One of the measures would ease the burden of proof for domestic violence victims asking a judge to issue a protective court order against an alleged abuser. Maryland is now the only state to require "clear and convincing" proof of abuse. The bill would change that to the "preponderance of the evidence" standard used in other states.

The other bill would add second-degree assault — the charge most commonly brought in domestic violence cases — to the list of crimes for which a victim can seek a permanent court order that the perpetrator stay away. The legislation would let a judge issue such an order if the offender is sentenced to a jail term of at least five years. Currently such orders can only be issued if the offender has actually served at least five years.

The Senate gave unanimous final approval to both measures Monday. A third bill on the governor's domestic violence agenda, allowing a stiffer sentence for assaults committed in the presence of a child, has passed the House and the Senate and will be final once one chamber passes the other's bill.