Legislators consider new domestic violence bill
By Erin Brown
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Legislators are reviewing a new House bill to expand the definition of domestic violence and help to better identify offenders early on. The bill is in response to delayed convictions of domestic violence in Kansas.
Representative Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, said the current laws in Kansas don’t catch offenders early enough. In Kansas, domestic violence is defined as battery of a person, she said. The first two times the crime is committed it is a misdemeanor and the third time it is a felony.
“Only three people were convicted of domestic violence as felonies in Kansas last year,” she said. “And you know there is much more domestic violence in Kansas than that.”
Other crimes, such as destruction of property, threats and disorderly conduct, are not classified as domestic violence under the current law, said Colloton, vice-chair for the Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.
If these offenses were committed within an intimate partner relationship, the new bill, HB 2517, would ask police officers, attorneys and courts to consider them as possible domestic violence crimes. The offender’s record would then receive a domestic violence tag that would remain on the conviction record, showing incidents of domestic violence and providing a better understanding of criminal history, lawmakers said.
Offenders may also be required to attend treatment such as anger management programs.
Colloton said the tags would help catch domestic violence offenders before an incident of battery.
“The sociologists tell us domestic violence gets worse and worse with greater and greater risk,” Colloton said. “We want that criminal history.”
The mother and stepfather of former KU law student Jana Mackey testified in favor of the bill last week. Mackey, 25, was killed by her ex-boyfriend, Adolfo Garcia-Nunez, 46, in 2008. He reportedly choked her, struck her and cut her on the arm with a knife.
Two days after being taken into custody, Garcia-Nunez committed suicide.
Tanner Willbanks, a senior from Hays and former friend of Mackey, said he thought the bill was a good idea.
“Police will be able to watch escalations in the crime much easier,” he said.
Willbanks said he didn’t know whether Mackey would still be alive if a similar bill had been passed earlier, but that education is the best way to prevent domestic violence.
“People need to understand that just because their mom or dad did it, that doesn’t make it right,” he said.
One in four women nationwide have been victims of domestic violence, Willbanks said. And according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, a domestic violence incident occurred in Kansas every 28 minutes and 34 seconds in 2004.
“Pretty much everybody has had it happen to somebody they know,” Willbanks said. “People need to realize that this is not something to stay silent about. People need to talk about it.”
Erin Fletcher, a junior from Leawood, volunteers with Women’s Transitional Care Services. She said education and awareness are important to prevention, and that she supports the efforts of the new bill.
“It’s just awful to see people that have been clearly abused, but the abuser never gets charged with anything,” she said. “They really don’t get enough justice.”
— Edited by Anna ArchibaldLegislators,violence,Erin,Brown,February,news,Document,House,Bill,Download,definition,response,Kansas,Representative,Colloton,Leawood,battery,person,times,crime,misdemeanor,felony,destruction,threats,Committee,Juvenile,Justice,relationship,courts,offender,conviction,history,treatment,management,incident,student,Jana,Mackey,Adolfo,Garcia,Nunez,custody,Tanner,Willbanks,Hays,friend,Police,education,People,victims,Bureau,Investigation,everybody,somebody,Fletcher,Women,Transitional,Care,Services,prevention,supports,efforts,abuser,Anna,Archibald,Share,Comment,Facebook,Digg,Delicious,offenders,convictions,felonies,crimes,Corrections,officers,incidents,lawmakersNote: Cross posted from [blogger angelzfury] Jana's Campaign.