July 29, 2014

Assembly approves domestic violence bills

Supporters of legislation approved in the Assembly Thursday argue the changes would make it easier to protect victims of domestic violence and to prosecute their attackers.

State Representative Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) says one of the bills, which allows evidence from domestic incidents that occurred up to ten years ago to be admitted at trial, will help show a pattern of abuse in court. Jacque says there are an average of six incidents of physical abuse before a victim even calls police, and “we need to allow more opportunities for good solid evidence of that to come in.”

AUDIO: Rep. Andre Jacque (:12)

However, Milwaukee Democrat Fred Kessler, a retired circuit court judge, believes the bill violates the Fourth Amendment rights of suspects. Kessler raised concerns that the legislation allows the use of hearsay evidence in court that’s not supported by any prior arrest or conviction.

AUDIO: Rep Fred Kessler (:17)

Jacque says judges will have the discretion though to exclude evidence at trial that’s prejudicial or confusing to the jury.

Other bills approved Thursday include a requirement that police file reports in all domestic violence cases they respond to, even if an arrest is not made. Another expands the tools prosecutors can use to keep domestic abuse suspects away from their victims, and keeps temporary restraining orders in place if a new judge is assigned in the case.

All three bills passed on voice votes and now head to the Senate.