What Maryland Is Doing To Help Victims Of Domestic Abuse


In a heartening victory for the Maryland state legislature, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring domestic abusers to wear GPS trackers. Once the bill is signed into law, judges will be allowed to order suspects of domestic abuse to wear GPS ankle bracelets as a condition of pre-trial release or probation. The ankle bracelets are connected to an app which victims can download onto their phones, alerting them if their abuser is within an area judges have forbidden them to be. This way, abuse victims can know if their abuser is lurking close by, waiting for them at home, or following them, and can react with enough time to potentially escape harm.

The bill was nicknamed "Amber's Law" in memory of Amber Schinault, a 36-year-old woman who was murdered in 2012 by an ex-boyfriend against whom she had a restraining order.

"I feel like it's the birth of my first grandchild," Schinault's mother Angela Zarcone told NBC News. "It's Amber's legacy."

Democratic State Delegate for Montgomery County Aruna Miller, who co-sponsored the legislation, had previously told a local NBC affiliate:

"Amber and her family did everything that they were supposed to do. They got a protective order. They changed the locks on their home. They sat outside of their home keeping careful vigilance and, in fact, the police department was right around the corner from their home. Despite all of this, on July 22, 2012, Amber Shinault was brutally murdered by her attacker. He slashed her throat."

Schinault's attacker was sentenced to life in prison, but the new bill could prevent similar attacks from happening in the future. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have been the victims of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner, with women between the ages of 18-24 most commonly abused. By giving victims of domestic abuse who have already gone through the proper channels to separate from their abuser an added tool for security, the measure empowers them to return to their daily routines. Armed with the so-called "victim stay-away alert technology," victims have the opportunity to better manage the fear and anxiety that comes with being stalked and harassed. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Larry Hogan, who can either sign it into law, allow it to pass without his signature, or veto it.