Tougher law on domestic violence returns to full city council

municipal-courtOnce again, a city council committee today advanced a change to toughen city law against domestic violence.

The public safety committee advanced the same change last week but the full city council sent it back to committee for changes.

The committee handled a concern about notification of offenders by changing the ordinance. It now says offenders have to be notified of ex parte protection orders before being charged with violating them.

Committee members also changed it to increase the fine from up to $500 to up to $1,000.

It again goes to the full city council for approval on Thursday.

The change would for the first time allow city prosecutors to charge for violating the ex parte orders.

The change amounts to a homicide prevention measure in a state that ranks seventh in the number of domestic violence homicides, said Ilene Shehan, CEO of Hope House shelter.

“If a person violates an ex parte and nothing happens, it escalates to the next level,” she said of domestic violence.

Ex parte orders are issued by a county circuit court judge after a victim files for protection but before evidence is presented for a full order of protection, which can take about two weeks.

Police say lesser offenses like “honey I love you” calls that are attempts at victim control often are not quickly prosecuted in county court because of the large number of cases.

The change would allow city prosecutors to more quickly get offenders into the court system, victim advocates and police say.

But Bill Geary, city attorney, cautioned that it will not solve the vast social problem of domestic violence.

“We’re trying to deal with it as best we can with the limited resources we have in municipal court,” he said.

Police and victim advocates suggested the change and spoke in favor of it last week and Wednesday.

Councilman Scott Taylor said the full council should pass the change Thursday. He said that delayed action was a major problem with the Ray Rice domestic violence case that has made headlines for days.

NFL officials did not suspend Rice indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens did not release him until a video appeared that showed him knocking his fiancé unconscious in an elevator.

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