HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu police are calling it one of their top priority bills in the Legislature this year. They say there's a potentially-deadly loophole in Hawaii's domestic violence law that deals with protective orders.
The House Human Services Committee on Thursday heard testimony on a measure that would correct that.
Victims advocates say it's not uncommon for an abuser to evade service of a protective order and that, until it is served, the order means nothing.
Joy Lacanienta can freely take a stroll through Downtown Honolulu now. But she says that wasn't the case about a decade ago, when she was leaving an abusive relationship.
"You're afraid," she said. "You're always looking beyond your shoulders if he's there."
She says a judge granted her request for a protective order, making it valid for 38 years based on the nature of her case. However...
"He broke the restraining order 17 times," she said. "I had to go to the Beretania police department and they had to tell me that he was not appropriately served."
State lawmakers are considering legislation that could help people like Lacanienta.
Right now, when a person obtains a protective order, the initial temporary restraining order is immediately dissolved. Police say a victim can be left vulnerable since the new order doesn't kick in until it's served, which isn't always easy to do.
"It's not uncommon for an abuser to feel like the temporary restraining order or the protection order is not necessary," Nanci Kreidman, Domestic Violence Action Center, said. "And they don't want to be necessarily following the conditions that the court sets."
"When he beat me, he would say look what you made me do," a domestic violence survivor, who didn't want to be identified, said.
The woman, who still lives in fear, says her protective order was issued last July, but wasn't served on her ex-husband until five months later.
"It was very scary because the fact that he kept stalking me the whole time," she said.
The measure would close the gap in coverage by allowing a TRO to remain in effect until the new order is served.
In each of the last two fiscal years, judiciary officials say there were more than 5,000 protective order requests made in domestic abuse cases statewide.
"This piece of legislation will really help protect more lives," Lacanienta said.
The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing.