Attorney General September 27, 1996 Letter on Violence Against Women

 


Office of the Attorney General
Washington, D.C. 20530

September 27, 1996

MEMORANDUM FOR ALL UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS

FROM: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

SUBJECT: Violence Against Women Act Prosecutions

As you know, the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act contains a number of important new federal enforcement provisions relating to violence against women. The interstate domestic violence provision (18 U.S.C. § 2261) prohibits traveling across a state line to injure, harass, or intimidate a person's spouse or intimate partner. The interstate violation of a protection order provision (18 U.S.C. § 2262) prohibits crossing a state line to violate a valid protection order. And the possession, transfer, or receipt of a firearm while subject to a valid restraining order is prohibited under a new section of the federal firearms statute (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8)). To accomplish effective enforcement of these provisions, we must educate our prosecutors about the law and then make every effort to educate state and local officials as well.

Guideposts for Federal Prosecutions

Domestic violence is traditionally a state crime, and the Violence Against Women Act was not enacted so the federal government could supplant what is rightfully within state and local purview. Nevertheless, there are narrowly defined circumstances that would be appropriate for federal prosecution. These include cases in which: (1) there are jurisdictional problems with state prosecutions; (2) state penalties do not fit the crime; (3) release of the subject on bond may be at issue; and (4) there is no appropriate state or local charge (as is the case with the federal firearms ban). In these instances, we should be working with state and local officials to determine if justice would best be served by a federal prosecution.

Educating Federal Prosecutors First

The first step in achieving an effective prosecutorial partnership between federal, state and local prosecutors is educating our own prosecutors about the law. In recent weeks you have received a great deal of information regarding the federal criminal provisions of the Violence Against Women Act. I would encourage you to disseminate this material to all the prosecutors in your office who might handle such cases.

In addition, the Office of Legal Education is offering a course on Violence Against Women and Children. Materials on how to prosecute these cases will also be provided in the Criminal Federal Practice Course. Finally, issues relating to violence against women will be a central topic at the October LECC/VW Conference in Panama City, Florida.

In July, the Attorney General's Advisory Committee established a Violence Against Women working group that is co-chaired by Karen Schreier, the United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota, and Mike Troop, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. The initial meeting of this working group was productive, and we anticipate that additional materials -- such as model jury instructions and pleadings -- will be disseminated as a result of the group's efforts.

Point of Contact

To assist in sharing these valuable tools, the working group suggested, and I concur, that a point of contact in each office would be helpful in our efforts to combat domes tic violence. The point of contact should serve as a reference for the office on domestic violence matters and should be kept abreast of continuing developments in the law and in ongoing prosecutions. I urge all of you to designate a member of your office for such a purpose and report the name of the person you choose to Bernie Delia in the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, at 202-514-8500 (phone); 202-514-8500 (fax); AEXI5(BDELIA) (E-Mail).

Reaching out To State and Local Counterparts

It is clear that in order to learn of potential cases, it is essential that the Department continues to educate local law enforcement, prosecutors, and victims' advocates about the new federal criminal provisions. There is simply no substitute for developing and maintaining relationships with our state and local counterparts. Through your direct relationships and through your law enforcement coordination program, you can insure that state and local law enforcement and prosecutors are aware of these new criminal provisions and of the circumstances under which you will accept a matter for prosecution.

By educating ourselves and working with state and local law enforcement, I have no doubt that we can make real impact in the fight against domestic violence. I thank you for your attention and commitment to this very important matter.

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