Legislation Inspired by Jackie Wisniewski’s Story Clears Major Hurdle After Push from Kennedy, Peoples-Stokes
Prior to her death, Jackie found a GPS device installed on her car, tracking her whereabouts. Legislation advanced by Kennedy and Peoples-Stokes updates NY’s stalking laws to crackdown on GPS stalking.
This legislation aims to combat domestic violence – in 2012 over 6,300 Erie County residents became victims of domestic violence, and over 4,000 of those victims were women.
ALBANY, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes announced today that legislation, prompted by the tragic murder of Jackie Wisniewski, to crackdown on stalking with the use of GPS devices or electronic monitoring has been approved by the Senate and Assembly. This critically important legislation will update New York State’s stalking laws to allow law enforcement to pursue criminal charges against those who use GPS or other electronic tracking devices to stalk their victims.
“When Jackie Wisniewski was murdered, our entire community mourned alongside her family. It was a tragedy that caused deep sadness and pain, and brought attention to the need to strengthen laws to prevent domestic violence,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “Jackie endured constant harassment and suffering which was amplified after her abuser installed a GPS tracking device to monitor her every movement. It’s appalling that this action alone was not illegal. We must ensure state law keeps pace with technology. Survivors of domestic violence are in dire need of this protection, which will ensure law enforcement and prosecutors have the power to intervene in domestic violence cases before it’s too late.”
In the days and weeks following the tragic murder of Jackie Wisniewski, the horrifying details of the domestic violence she endured came to light. In March 2012, Jackie discovered a GPS tracking device that Timothy Jorden had installed on her car to stalk her and constantly follow her movement and location. Although Jorden was clearly stalking Wisniewski with the use of GPS technology, this specific action could not be deemed criminal due to a gap in state law. Just months later, in June 2012, Jorden shot and killed Wisniewski in a stairwell at the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC).
This GPS stalking legislation (S.4187C/A.7720B) will fix this gap in the law. It will empower law enforcement to pursue charges and prosecute individuals who install GPS tracking systems with the intention of stalking another person. The legislation is commonly known as Jackie’s Law.
Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “I urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law as it provides a much needed extra layer of protection for victims of domestic violence, by way of addressing an existing gap in state law. I believe that this legislation will grant victims additional peace of mind via further enabling law enforcement to intercede on their behalf, and aid in their mental, physical and emotional safety.”
The Wisniewski family shared the following statement, “No family is immune from the tragedy of domestic violence. It’s a lesson we learned when our beloved Jackie was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend. Today is an important step forward in preventing this tragedy from affecting another family. This legislation will make it easier for victims to find peace from their abusers and it will assist law enforcement in holding these criminals responsible for their stalking behaviors. As a family we will continue to work with Senator Kennedy and Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes to see that this important piece of legislation is signed by the Governor.”
Senator Kennedy took to the Senate floor today to tell Jackie's story and to outline the importance of the legislation. His remarks can be viewed at .
Under current law, individuals who use a GPS device to follow a person’s movement in order to cause mental distress or fear of material harm, would not be charged with stalking. This legislation will reform the state’s penal codes on stalking and ensure that tracking the whereabouts of an individual with a GPS device or other electronic device without their consent is considered stalking under the law.
Once this legislation is signed into law, individuals who use GPS systems or electronic devices to follow the movements and location of their victims can be charged with stalking in the fourth degree. This legislation will also help streamline the process of securing an order of protection since stalking offenses can be pursued in criminal court, family court or both.
Often, victims of abuse do not feel comfortable pressing charges against their abuser. They can be so fearful of retaliation that they feel stuck in the abusive relationship, and may hesitate to press charges. In Jackie’s case, she may have been afraid to press charges, and the police were unable to identify a crime in the current state penal code to charge Jorden with.
This legislation, which Kennedy and Peoples-Stokes have been pushing in Albany, allows law enforcement to prosecute perpetrators for the crime of stalking in the fourth degree, without requiring the victim to press charges or to file an order of protection. Law enforcement will have the ability to charge and prosecute an individual if he or she installs a GPS device to track the movement or location of their victim. The onus of pursuing criminal charges will shift from the victim to law enforcement officials.
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that one in four cases of stalking involves the use of some type of technology, and one in 13 cases involves electronic monitoring or GPS tracking. Many of these cases involve domestic violence, including emotional and mental distress from the fear of physical abuse.
According to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, in Erie County in 2012 there were more than 6,300 victims of domestic violence, and over 4,000 of those victims were women. In Buffalo, there were about 4,000 reported victims of domestic violence, and about 3,000 of those victims were women.
Abusers utilize GPS devices on their victims for a number of reasons:
- To ensure their victim does not escape.
- To track their victim’s every movement and stalk him or her.
- To ensure their victim only goes to the abuser’s approved places, such as taking kids to school or grocery shopping, and does not go to the police or a place like the Family Justice Center to report the abuse.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you are encouraged to immediately call the 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline Response for Erie County at 716-862-HELP (4357). If you are in need of shelter, dial 716-884-6000. Hotline counselors provide crisis intervention, safety planning, support, information and referrals.
The legislation passed unanimously today in the Senate and was previously approved in the Assembly on April 29. The bill now heads to the Governor for his signature.
Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.