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Legislative Quest for Clarification in Domestic Abuse Cases

FILE: Domestic Abuse, Domestic Violence

One of the tasks of legislative bodies is adjust to changing norms in society.  What worked decades ago may not be as effective today or in the future.  An area of concern is how people who know each other treat one another.  The state considers them “Domestic” relationships.

The most common of those are within the nuclear family.  Unfortunately violence occurs within the family unit and special protections and provisions are needed to adjudicate harmful treatment within that setting.

However, common does not cover all domestic relationships and attempts are being made to expand and clarify different types of dwelling scenarios.  South Dakota Senator Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls was part of a summer legislative study that took a deep look into domestic abuse and violence statutes.  The topic has been addressed by previous legislatures, but nothing could gain traction.   “For the past few years there have been quite a few bills that have been brought forward in relationship to domestic abuse that have stalled at various steps of the process.  Our group really took a look at the full scope of everything around domestic abuse in South Dakota.”

Domestic abuse, domestic violence and assault are not the same says Soholt.  “If we know each other and you decide to hit me, that’s assault.  In a domestic abuse case, regardless of what the relationship is, the element of power and control is present.  (Abuse) is also about threats, coercion and isolation with intent.  The actual physical violence is almost to the end of the trail.”

One particular case falls into the domestic abuse category because of the way current law is written.  Soholt says the example points to the need for clarity in this system of laws.  “We had a case of two college roommates West River where because of our definition, the domestic abuse statute was applied because it was living together.  In relationships right now, you cannot always define them by time and space.”

As a result of the study group, six laws in this area will be brought to Legislators for them to consider in the 2014 session.  They are Senate Bills 2-7 and a rough outline of what these bills will do are as follows.

SB 2: Provides for the delayed arrest, under certain circumstances, in regard to certain outstanding warrants for victims of domestic abuse with minor children.
SB 3: Will provide for continuity in the judicial review of certain lawsuits, complaints, and petitions between parties to a petition for certain protection orders.
SB 4: Ensures, by service, notice to the respondent and opportunity for the respondent to be heard prior to enforcement of certain foreign domestic protection orders.
SB 5: Will permit the court reciprocal discretion to hear certain petitions for protection orders due to domestic abuse and for protection orders due to stalking or physical injury.
SB 6: Would establish the crime of committing certain acts of domestic abuse in the presence of a minor child.
SB 7: Modifies the persons eligible for protection from domestic abuse and to revise certain terminology.

To read more about these measures click here.


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