JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - Missouri lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to what supporters have called the first overhaul of the state's domestic violence laws in four decades.
Many of the bill's changes follow suggestions from a specially created domestic violence task force organized by the attorney general's office. The House passed the bill 138-0 on Thursday after senators last month approved the measure 33-0. The domestic violence legislation now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon.
Among the provisions in the legislation are changes to how Missouri handles orders of protection. People seeking a protection order would not be charged filing fees when asking courts to enforce protection orders. If the order is withdrawn, judges would be allowed to determine whether the person did so voluntarily. Judges also would be allowed to customize the terms of protection orders according to the situation.
Besides protection orders, the legislation also would remove an expiration date for a program created in 2007 that gives victims of sexual assault, rape, stalking and domestic violence an alternative mailing address. The intent of that program is to prevent abusers from tacking down victims through mail or public documents. Mail is sent to the secretary of state's office under the alternative address and then forwarded to the person's home. The alternative address can be used on government documents and public filings.
The legislation also would create the same definition in the law for terms such as "domestic violence," "abuse," "adult" and "child." Some terms have multiple definitions in different state laws while other