ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) – The State Legislature has passed “Jackie’s Law,” which, for the first time, will make it a crime for perpetrators of domestic violence to install and use GPS devices to stalk their victims.
Jackie Wisniewski had found one of those devices on her car, before her estranged boyfriend fatally shot her at their workplace, Erie County Medical Center, in June 2012.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand the amount of fear that these victims are under,” her brother, Dave Wisniewski, told News 4. “They often feel like they’re in helpless situations, their whole world is crumbling around them. And it’s very difficult to reach out for help. And I know that’s what my sister was going through.”
“There were a lot of things that, as a family, we didn’t know about. Victims, as my sister did, only let certain people in on certain things. And when she went to the West Seneca Police station, she decided it was better to confront [her boyfriend] with this information… out of fear that if she did tell, she’d be upsetting the situation even further, and it might escalate from there,” he explained.
Even if Jackie Wisniewski had decided to press charges, there was “no legal statute that specifically outlaws the use of GPS stalking devices,” said Senator Tim Kennedy, who along with Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes sponsored Jackie’s Law.
Jackie’s Law didn’t pass during the 2013 legislative session, but after some revision, it cleared a Senate Codes Committee and easily passed the Assembly. On Thursday, it unanimously passed the State Senate, and is now headed go the governor’s desk for his signature.
“It’s a step. It’s a forward step that we’re taking. There’s a lot of work to be done. But anytime you can show a victim that there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a good thing,” Wisniewski said.
Senator Kennedy said Jackie’s Law will empower law enforcement and prosecutors to go after these perpetrators, in ways they’ve never been able to before.
“Once this bill is passed into law, stalkers who use GPS systems or electronic devices to follow the movements and the locations of their victims will immediately be charged with stalking in the fourth degree. And the legislation will also help to streamline the process of securing an order of protection,” Kennedy said.
There’s no telling how things might’ve been different for Jackie Wisniewski, if this law had existed in 2012.
“You have victims who are hiding in shadows, afraid to come out, afraid to pursue charges, afraid to ask for help. Legislation like this shows people that the community, the state, is getting serious… This is an epidemic,” said Dave Wisniewski.
He added, “We want to get away from victim-blaming. We want to shine the light on the abuser. Instead of asking questions like, ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’ we should be asking questions like, ‘Why didn’t he just stop?’”