Bill would raise penalties for violating protection orders in Nevada
Senators were asked on Thursday to increase penalties for violating domestic violence protection orders to a gross misdemeanor and, on extended orders, a felony.
Eric Spratley of the Nevada Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs told the Judiciary Committee the current penalty for violating a protective order is a misdemeanor. He said the abusers “compare it to a traffic ticket.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, told the panel Nevada is No. 1 in the nation in domestic violence. She said SB218 would raise the penalty for deliberately violating a protective order from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor and for violating an extended protection order to a Category C felony punishable by up to five years in prison. It would also make domestic violence by a person previously convicted of battery with a deadly weapon in a domestic violence case a Category B felony punishable by at least two years and up to 15 years in prison
“There are some victims that need the full force of this to be protected,” she said.
Chuck Callaway representing the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said they explain exactly what the abuser can and can’t do often before his release from jail. He said counseling and other efforts are needed but “you also need enforcement.”
But public defenders said tougher penalties aren’t the answer and haven’t proven to reduce violations.
Kendra Bertschy of the Washoe public defender’s office and John Piro of the Clark County PD both said the state would be much better off focusing on counseling and training for the abusers and help for the victims of domestic violence.
“We keep playing the same old song of increased penalties,” said Piro. “We keep saying things are going to change but we haven’t been able to incarcerate our way out of this problem.”
The two also pointed out some victims contact the abuser and then use the protection orders as leverage in custody battles.
Sen. Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, also questioned whether stiffer penalties would do anything to actually reduce violations of protective orders.
“My goal is to reduce the problems, not throw more people in jail,” he said.
Bertschy also objected to the portion of the bill that allows only the victim’s side of the case to be presented in the hearing on whether to grant a protective order. She said the judge needs to hear both sides, “to make sure this isn’t being abused.”
But Cannizzaro pointed out raising the penalties above the misdemeanor level ensure the abuser has the right to a jury trial in which all evidence would be heard.
The committee took no action on the bill.