Legislative committee agrees to review domestic violence battery law

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The legislative committee studying misdemeanors in Nevada has agreed to consider whether Nevada's tough domestic violence battery law is too rigid.

The law, which orders police to make an arrest if there was any contact between parties in a domestic dispute and prohibits prosecutors from taking a reduced plea, has come up as an issue several times.

Justices of the peace told lawmakers during the last session judges need more flexibility to consider the circumstances in a variety of misdemeanor cases -- including domestic violence.

One of the examples they used was two teenage brothers fighting. Under current law, police could be forced to charge one or both with domestic battery, which carries a mandatory two days in jail and loss of the right to bear arms.

Judges have consistently opposed mandatory minimums and other restrictions on handling of cases saying one size doesn't fit all.

Former state Sen. Ernie Adler of Carson City described a case Friday in which a man and wife, both senior citizens, got into a dispute and the wife called police thinking they could help calm things down, only to be told one of the two had to go to jail.

She went to jail because her husband suffers from Parkinson's disease and, even though the case was dismissed, she has the arrest permanently on her record, according to Adler.

Ben Graham, representing Nevada's district attorneys, agreed that, while they don't want to weaken domestic violence statutes, "there is some feeling there maybe needs to be some room for discretion."

But Nancy Hart, of the Attorney General's Office, objected saying domestic violence escalates from seemingly non-violent confrontations to fights ending in homicide.

"The idea that a victim of domestic violence would have to have a bruise or pain is, frankly, frightening to me," she said.

Adler said that isn't the situation he's talking about.

Several members of the study committee including Assembly Democrats Bernie Anderson of Sparks and Mark Manendo of Las Vegas agreed the issue needs some review.

Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, said he would also like to see a list of the consequences someone faces when convicted of domestic violence -- one of which is the loss of the right to bear arms.

They made it clear they don't intend to loosen the standards and allow domestic abusers to escape punishment.

The committee will take the issue up at its final work session later this year.


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