Monday, December 19, 2011

No more easy rides for domestic violence offenders

Sen. Steve Gallardo
December 19, 2011

State Capitol, Phoenix – Senator Steve Gallardo introduced Senate Bill 1027 to enact tougher penalties for domestic violence offenders, including fines that would fund services that help victims of domestic violence.

Currently, a person who is convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence can be sentenced to counseling alone. Sen. Gallardo’s bill would increase penalties to include:
  • Mandatory completion of a domestic violence offender treatment program at a DHS-approved facility. Offenders would be required to pay for the cost of their treatment.
  • Mandatory supervised probation.
  • Mandatory sentencing to not less than 48 consecutive hours in jail. Offenders would not be eligible for probation or suspension of sentence unless the entire 48 hours is served.
  • Mandatory fine of not less than $50. Funds collected from offenders would be placed in the state’s existing Domestic Violence Shelter Fund, which provides financial assistance to shelters for victims of domestic violence through contracts for shelter services.
These harsher penalties would be expanded to apply to those who plead guilty or no contest.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Even more startling is the fact that in Arizona one or more children witness a domestic violence incident every 44 minutes. It’s important to realize that this behavior can be triggered by alcoholism, drug abuse or, especially in these difficult times, the added stress of joblessness and financial instability.

Early intervention, such as treatment and supervised probation is key for first-time offenders of domestic violence. The 2007 study “System Alert: Arizona’s Criminal Justice Response to Domestic Violence” from ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy reported:
“A frequent criticism voiced especially by lower-court professionals was the dearth of supervised probation for misdemeanor DV offenders. A number of practitioners cited this lack as a key reason for recidivism, arguing that early intervention with lower-level offenders offers a greater chance for success in preventing an escalation of violence.”
“Right now in Arizona, someone who beats their dog can face harsher punishment than someone who beats their girlfriend. This legislation sends a strong message to those who engage in domestic violence. Arizonans won’t put up with that behavior, but we will help domestic violence victims escape abusive situations,” said Sen. Gallardo.

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