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GPS Technology Boosts Enforcement of Restraining Orders


The digital age is catching up with enforcement of court-ordered restraining orders. By now, GPS is an acronym that most Americans need no introduction to. Global Positioning Satellites are becoming more and more a part of daily life.

These systems lead hikers out of the woods and motorists out of traffic, providing navigational data and easy-to-follow directions. A growing number of states also are taking full advantage of GPS technology and its ability to find anything.

Currently, 13 states have passed laws that allow judges to order domestic violence offenders to wear bracelets containing a GPS transponder. This technology lets law enforcement officials make sure that the boundaries courts put in place around a victim’s home or the children’s school are protected, 24 hours a day.

Historically, the effectiveness of a restraining order has depended on the offender’s willingness to obey it. The most angry and/or violent abusers were often the very same individuals who disregarded a court’s order.

With a GPS bracelet, an offender who violates the boundary of a restraining order prompts two calls: one to the person protected by the order, and another to the police, who can respond to the violator’s exact location. Alexis Moore, the head of Survivors in Action, a victims' advocacy group, sums up the feeling of many in her profession:

"Why it’s not available in all 50 states, I’ll never know."

She is leading the push for a GPS law in California.

Unfortunately, the reason the technology has yet to catch on everywhere is simple dollars and cents. According to the Colorado Electronic Monitoring Resource Center, some 5,000 GPS devices are tracking offenders across the country. Some jurisdictions have declined to take up the cost of monitoring persons under a restraining order, while others have decided to order the offender himself to foot the expense.

While this technology seems like a slam-dunk to many victims-advocacy groups, not everyone is convinced. Deborah Epstein, a member of the Domestic Violence Clinic at Georgetown University, worries that GPS technology might provide victims with more peace of mind than real security.

While the 5,000 offenders currently monitored seems like a very manageable number, a full count of all persons under restraining orders would be significantly higher.

"If we hand them out in every case, law enforcement isn’t going to be able to deliver the kind of protection that victims need," Epstein says, "and we run the risk of lulling victims into a false sense of security, they think, my abusive partner has a monitoring bracelet on, I’m safe."

For victims trying to divorce from their abusive spouses or seeking legal action against them, those concerns ring somewhat hollow. Many feel that the extra warning offered by GPS monitoring technology provides a window of time that could mean the difference between life and death.

In other words, the technology ensures that the protection of the court will be more than just a piece of paper.

Source: ABC News

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