Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA)
The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (S1077/A3974) is a New York State bill originally introduced in 2011. It allows judges to go outside the regulated sentencing scheme and assess whether domestic abuse was a "significant contributing factor" to the alleged crime. For example, if a survivor commits a crime because a violent partner or family member abuses them, a judge can consider that a “significant contributing factor.” Another example is that if a survivor commits a crime because their abuser coerces them (threatens their life or safety, etc.), a judge can consider that a “significant contributing factor.” This allows judges to implement shorter sentences and, in some cases, alternative-to-incarceration (ATI) programs. ATIs are court-mandated programs that fall under the authority of governmental or non-profit agencies. They operate in conjunction with the criminal justice system across New York State. The bill also permits currently incarcerated survivors, who meet the criteria, to apply for re-sentencing or earlier release.
On March 4, 2019, the DVSJA passed the Assembly for the fourth year in a row. Then on March 12, 2019, it passed the Senate on it’s first ever vote 53-8. Throughout the legislation’s history, attempts were made to water down and manipulate the bill because it was seen as "weak on crime" or a "get-out-of-jail-free card."