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Senate Bills 2-6 Would Amend Domestic Abuse Laws

The Legislature's Interim Domestic Abuse Study Committee hits the hopper early, offering five of the first six Senate bills for the 2014 session. These five bills would improve protection for domestic abuse victims and increase legal punishments for abusers.

Senate Bill 2 would shield domestic abuse victims from arrest for outstanding warrants. This protection is limited to parents of minor children for the 72 hours after police respond to a domestic abuse call. It only applies to warrants for Class 6 felonies and lesser crimes.

Senate Bill 3 changes the protection order statute by striking the words "family or household member" and inserting "protected party" and "abusing party." Hmmm... are we finding a way here to ensure that protection orders can apply to same-sex couples left otherwise unrecognized and unprotected by South Dakota's regressive laws?

SB 3 also assigns protection order petitions to the judge assigned to any pending litigation between the affected parties, with the intent of improving continuity in such legal proceedings.

Senate Bill 4 ensures that stalkers and abusers are served legal notice of protection order and given time to respond in the issuing jurisdiction before those orders take effect. That may sound like a favor for bad guys, but everyone gets due process.

Senate Bill 5 gives folks alleging domestic abuse or stalking a break. If an individual asks for a protection order against a domestic abuser, but the allegations don't add up to domestic abuse, right now the court would say, "No protection order; dismissed!" The petitioner may be able to make a case for stalking or physical abuse, but (if I understand the current statute correctly) the petitioner has to return to court with a new petition. SB 5 would allow the court to say, "You don't have a case for domestic abuse, but don't leave yet; we may be able to get you a protection order for stalking or physical injury." SB 5 would create "reciprocal discretion" for cases where a petitioner alleges stalking but the judge sees a case for domestic abuse.

Senate Bill 6 is the get-tough portion of these domestic abuse changes. This bill puts a new crime on the books, the commission of domestic abuse in the presence of a child. Beating your wife is bad enough; beating your wife in front of your kids would get you an additional year in jail and $2,000 fine.

SB 6 poses some interesting legal questions. Hurting a loved one in the sanctity of one's home deserves severe punishment. Committing such a crime in front of children is egregious as well. But should we punish a man less for beating his wife because he holds back until the kids have left for school?

I can see the argument that committing violence in front of a child does harm that earns the perpetrator separate punishment. But if that is the case, should we create "role model" or "psychic harm" laws to add punishment for committing other crimes in the presence of children? Do we increase the sentence for aggravated assault for throwing a punch at a guy at a ball game with kids in attendance? Do convenience store robbers get more time for committing their crime while kids are in buying Slurpees?

Don't get me wrong: I'm all about punishing domestic abusers. I'm just curious about what precedent such a "not in front of the children" law may already have and what precedent it may set.


  1. dale b 2013.12.23

    Now all they have to do is figure out a way to get judges to put drunken vehicular manslaughterers in prison and were all good. SMH

  2. Rick 2013.12.23

    Sensible and balanced approach to codifying protections to targets for abuse. It will be interesting to see if the extremists crawl out of the woodwork to protect a man's castle and chattel.

  3. Mark 2013.12.23

    DV in the presence of minor is considered a form of child abuse that been recognized in some states for some time, including North Dakota. In other states it's deemed an aggravating circumstance. SD is playing catch-up here.

  4. John 2013.12.23

    Mark's spot on: another reason for this provision is society's interest to break the family cycle of violence. It's a sad yet generally true statement that too often the same families are court domestic abuse frequent fliers through the generations. Child learn these behaviors, unfortunately.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.23

    I've testified to the state legislature about DV and child abuse in the late 80s, early 90s when the first laws were going on the books and the shelter movement was new in SD. It was a very exciting and enormously frustrating time. There was a large political contingent who did not believe that the law had any business interfering with a man in his castle. With the help of one of the largest Democratic minorities since the 70s, and many Republicans, we got the first laws with any teeth passed.

    I managed shelters in Spearfish and Rapid City and did lots of training sessions for law enforcement throughout SD. There were so many barriers to begin chipping away at. Police, and much of the public at large wanted to blame her for not leaving. Imagine. He beats the crap out of her, getting away with that, and a majority are not asking what is wrong with our legal system. They're saying, "Well why doesn't she just leave?" Mind blowing.

    So, all that being said, I am an expert on domestic violence.

    #4 is not a good idea. Those guys are not dumb. They know how to avoid being served. And some of them have huge resources. DV is not dominated by poor people. Keep that in mind: DV happens in the big houses among wealthy and professional people just as often as among the homeless. And those people have the resources to avoid being served legal papers.

    The alternative is that she carries a copy of the order with her. Without question she is going to tell him about it and try to show him. Him claiming he did not show it is not a defense.

    #3 is not only for same sex relationships, but adds a necessary and important extension to who is covered by DV. Friends, relatives, coworkers, employers, boyfriends, neighbors, etc. It's a very good thing.

    The other bills are good. Just revise #4 and it's all a great idea!

    I use "him" for the perp because males commit something like 97% of the DV.

    When the woman leaves the likelihood of her murder goes up 75%! Last year in MN there were half a dozen murders of lovely young women who were in the process of leaving the husband/boyfriend. It was horrendous. One man didn't kill her. He slaughtered their 3 little girls instead. Sickening.

  6. Michael B 2013.12.23

    Women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, men for approximately 15%. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)

  7. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.23

    Good info Michael. Was there anything on the perps? There is women on women and male on male DV.

  8. Les 2013.12.23

    An area I wouldn't mind seeing some clarification on Deb, would be the self defense issue. When the gal finally says enough and uses deadly force against the perp, it seems to me they go to prison in too many cases, though they seldom defend themselves.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.23

    I'm right with you on that Les.

    In Florida we know that Zimmerman was acquitted of charges when he shot and killed the unarmed teenager, Martin. It was only a few weeks later that a woman was sent to prison for attempted murder. Her husband had a record of being violently abusive to her. He had been served with a protection order to stay far away from her. Yet he approached her, refused to stop when she told him to, did not stop when she showed him the gun she had finally gotten for self-protection, so she fired a warning shot well over his head. Race was not an issue because the couple were the same. But gender was.

    Oh, and Les, she had a lawyer and did fight for herself. Don't know what quality of representation she had. A private attorney or an overworked and swamped public defender?

  10. Les 2013.12.24

    From a friend of ours Deb. " I was face down with his knee between my shoulders as he was choking me with both hands. As I lost my wind and the world lightened around me, I realized death was nothing to fear and this pain, and fear could no longer be projected on me." There is happiness in this story. She was able to get away with the support of her doctor but the courts refused to punish him or reward her for the life lost though he was a farmer with thousands of acres East River.
    How does anyone like our friend come up with the ability to self defend without it appearing like a preplanned event if it eventually requires deadly force?

  11. Les 2013.12.24

    As to firing over someone, brandishing laws and self defense probably leave few alternatives to a properly placed shot.

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.24

    Yeah Les. What else is there to say.

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