Massachusetts State Senator: Tracking Device Tampering Should Be Felony

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By Alison Kuznitz
State House News Service

Survivors of domestic violence and abuse, including children, could gain new reprieve this legislative session after signature proposals championed by former governor Charlie Baker failed to gain sufficient traction last summer.

A bill filed by state Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) (S.1098) would make it a felony to cut off court-ordered Global Positioning System tracking devices like ankle bracelets and impose a mandatory sentence of at least two years in state prison for violating the law. For now, tampering with GPS devices only constitutes a misdemeanor, O’Connor said Tuesday afternoon during a Joint Committee on the Judiciary hearing.

GPS devices are meant to monitor individuals and deter them from committing more crimes, while also providing victims with a “semblance of security and safety,” O’Connor said.

“Right now with our laws being as they are and this being a misdemeanor, they’re not being the tools in place to actually have individuals who are justice-involved care enough about the consequences should they violate these laws,” O’Connor, a Weymouth Republican, testified. “I think it’s something that Massachusetts should change. I’m more than willing to work with the committee as far as what specific instances would trigger a felony violation; I’m more than willing to work with the committee on the potential of changing the minimum mandatory.”

Baker, through a series of roundtable discussions across the state last year, had also pushed for the felony classification within his pitch to expand the criteria to qualify pre-trial detainees for dangerousness hearings. Survivors repeatedly shared how removing GPS devices was a common occurrence as they struggled to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

A survivor who identified as Jo said Tuesday,June 13 she will always live in fear of her abuser, who wasn’t punished for cutting off his GPS device — despite multiple probation and restraining order violations.

“I fought for my safety. I begged for my protection knowing now my abuser had control of the system — a system that disregarded my life,” Jo testified.

State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), co-chairman of the committee, said he met with Jo last year and thanked her for her “continued courage.”

“And Senator O’Connor, thank you so much for filing so many bills around domestic violence,” Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, said. “We really appreciate your leadership.” 


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