Bill to Put GPS Trackers on Domestic Violence Suspects Passes in Maryland

Amber's Law is named after a woman who was killed by her ex-boyfriend despite having an order of protection against him

Courts in Maryland may soon be able to order domestic violence suspects to use GPS systems that alert victims if their abusers are in the area.

Lawmakers in the state passed a bill late Monday that would allow judges to order that defendants wear GPS devices connected to "victim stay-away alert technology" as a condition of pretrial release or probation.

Amber's Law, also known as House Bill 1163, was named in memory of Amber Schinault. The 36-year-old Prince George's County resident was killed by her ex-boyfriend, Andrew Kugler, in July 2012.

Schinault's mother, Angela Zarcone, said Tuesday that she was moved by the passage of the law. 

"I feel like it's the birth of my first grandchild. It's Amber's legacy," she said.

A woman found dead inside a Berwyn Heights, Md., over the weekend knew her killer, police said, and may have feared for her safety.

Schinault got a protective order against Kugler after she reported that he assaulted her the previous month. Kugler still was able to break into her home.

Schinault was found dead in the basement of her home on 57th Avenue in Berwyn Heights on July 22, 2012.

Her ex-boyfriend was convicted in May 2014 and sentenced to life in prison later that year.

Prince George's County Councilman Mel Franklin called the passage of the bill a victory for domestic violence survivors.

“The passage of Amber’s Law is an amazing triumph for survivors of domestic violence and will save countless lives by strengthening protections against domestic violence abusers," he said in a statement.

The bill would require defendants to wear GPS ankle bracelets. When the defendant is in an area that a court has ordered that he or she stay away from, like the victim's home or workplace, the victim will get a smartphone app alert.

041117 gps ankle bracelet
NBC Washington
Amber's Law would give judges the option of ordering that accused domestic abusers wear GPS anklets like this.

Zarcone said the technology would give victims some peace of mind. 

"The victim just has an app on her phone, with her all the time," she said. "She can go about living her life and would know if the perpetrator became close to her, she has time to take care of her situation." 

Amber's Law passed unanimously in the last moments of the 2017 legislative session.

Del. Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery County) sponsored the legislation. She previously told WBAL-TV that it was created to give victims additional tools to protect themselves.

"Amber and her family did everything that they were supposed to do. They got a protective order. They changed the locks on their home. They sat outside of their home keeping careful vigilance and, in fact, the police department was right around the corner from their home. Despite all of this, on July 22, 2012, Amber Shinault was brutally murdered by her attacker. He slashed her throat," Miller said.

The bill now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan's desk. Hogan has the option of signing it, vetoing it or letting it become law without his signature.

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