Legalizing Domestic Violence
ETA: The vote was held last night. Topeka, Kansas has decriminalized domestic violence.
“Domestic violence still remains a crime under state law which is why the move will now force the DA to prosecute these smaller cases despite budget claims. At the meeting, advocates of victims of domestic violence were quick to point out that already several individuals arrested on domestic violence calls had been released without charges because no new cases are being accepted…”
Topeka, Kansas has taken a rather unusual approach to trying to deal with budget woes. According to the Topeka Capital Journal, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has simply stopped prosecuting cases of domestic battery in Topeka. Now the city council is considering changes to the Uniform Public Offense Code developed by the League of Kansas Municipalities, “changes which would include repealing the part of the code that bans domestic battery.”
Mayor Bill Bunten says the city does take domestic violence seriously. From the International Business Times, “He said the question is not whether domestic violence offenders should be prosecuted, but who — the city or the county — should pay for it, adding that anyone who thinks domestic battery will go unpunished in Topeka is ‘dead wrong.'”
Of course, that same article also points out that, “Shawnee County has already turned back 30 domestic violence cases since it stopped prosecuting the crime on Sept. 8. Moreover, 16 people have been arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery charges and then released from county jail after charges were not filed.”
- We take domestic violence very seriously.
- So seriously that we’ve stopped prosecuting it.
- So seriously that we’re trying to legalize it.
Apparently D.A. Taylor has offered to review all domestic violence cases … in exchange for a one-time payment of $350,000 from the city.
Am I reading that correctly? Are you essentially holding domestic violence victims hostage as part of your budget negotiating strategy?
In addition to being despicable, this doesn’t even make financial sense. The CDC estimates that violence by an intimate partner costs this country more than 5.8 billion dollars annually.
Topeka, Kansas has a population of around 122,000 people, roughly .04% of the United States’ 300,000,000 people. So assuming I’m running these numbers right, Topeka’s share of that 5.8 billion dollars comes out to just over $2.3 million.
To the folks behind this mess, congratulations! You not only fail as decent human beings, you also suck at math.
October 12, 2011 @ 10:03 am
I’m guessing they’re still prosecuting drug possession cases, though. It’s not okay if someone harms their own body. It’s only okay if they harm someone else’s.
October 12, 2011 @ 10:09 am
I’m completely speechless. And angry. This is wrong on so many levels.
Jim C. Hines
October 12, 2011 @ 10:10 am
Jim C. Hines
October 12, 2011 @ 10:11 am
Alternate sarcastic take: It’s only okay if the majority of the victims are female…
October 12, 2011 @ 10:16 am
“He said the question is not whether domestic violence offenders should be prosecuted, but who — the city or the county — should pay for it, adding that anyone who thinks domestic battery will go unpunished in Topeka is ‘dead wrong.’”
It should be prosecuted, but he doesn’t want to pay for it?
And domestic abusers will still get punished? By who, exactly? Is he planning to bring back vigilante justice and lynch mobs or something?
I was pretty acoherent the first time I heard about the proposal, and I’m still too furious to say much about it now. Everyone involved pretty much forfeited ANY kind of moral high ground from now until forever.
October 12, 2011 @ 10:23 am
Wow, really? Who is the asshat behind this idea? There is NO way around justifying this kind of action, and any kind of savings is going in the toilet the first time someone gets hurt because someone wasn’t prosecuted and they sue the city. Hopefully someone takes them to court over this. This is rather mind-boggling.
October 12, 2011 @ 10:54 am
Yeah, it isn’t like women are PEOPLE or anything.
October 12, 2011 @ 11:08 am
I know it sounds cruel, but I would want to know a lot more information before making a decision. For starters, the article says that most domestic battery cases are misdemeanors instead of felonies. What are the typical punishments? Fees? Short jail sentences? (I believe misdemeanors can’t be more than 12 months.) How many are in the court system in a month? In a year? How many repeat offenders? In short, what is the impact of DV cases on the city, county, and state?
If they are complaining that misdemeanors in general, then did they remove a number of them or just domestic violence as a crime in the city? Hard to tell from the articles linked because there is always a bias and I don’t have access to the public records (and probably won’t go searching for them). I would think if they removed an entire category of crimes to reduce the load, that would be more acceptable than just removing domestic violence by itself. If domestic violence does represent a majority of the cases in the system, then that is a sign that something else isn’t working (punishment, enforcement, etc).
When government runs out of money (because people hate paying taxes, mismanagement of funds, etc), something has to give. And that will always be the people less able to defend themselves. Otherwise, they’ll be even less effective as they try to do everything. Deciding to stop prosecuting DV cases to focus on the others (hopefully) would have a lot of justification.
A large number of DV that never go away is a good sign that something is wrong.
I’m not saying they are right. But, I’m also not saying they are wrong. I would just want to know their justification other than “we hate going after domestic violence cases.”
Jim C. Hines
October 12, 2011 @ 11:12 am
“In short, what is the impact of DV cases on the city, county, and state?”
More than 3 deaths every day in this country. Billions of dollars in lost productivity and health care costs. Not to mention the emotional damage to victims and families.
There’s plenty of information about the impact of domestic violence, if you care to look around.
October 12, 2011 @ 11:28 am
Smoking kills 13k people a day (according to the CDC website and I’m assuming world-wide). Influenza kills 65 people a day in the US (having trouble finding the specific chart for that, my notes say 25k/year). Automobile fatalities is at 90/day in the US (Wikipedia). How does DV compared to those in terms of lost productivity, health care costs, and emotional damage? I remember a car accident in high school that pretty much brought our high school of 1200 to a halt for three days (though, it was five students). Even for the non-deaths, I think the same question applies. How does the impact of DV compare to everything else that significantly impacts productivity, health care costs, and emotions?
Would we save more lives, get more productivity, and reduce health care costs if we cut smoking in half or reduced auto accidents?
Jim C. Hines
October 12, 2011 @ 11:31 am
I strongly suggest you walk away from this conversation now. If you care about the questions you’re asking, the information is out there for you to review.
October 12, 2011 @ 11:32 am
Why did I learn how to cuss most creatively? For situations just like this.
Given the limited progress we’ve made in the past two decades, this just is a face plant for society at large.
October 12, 2011 @ 11:34 am
This makes no sense. Does this mean they’re also not prosecuting assault and battery cases? How the hell are they differentiating? A broken nose is a broken nose whether done by a spouse or a mugger on the street.
DV has several other layers to it, yes, but if they’re not prosecuting DV cases how the hell can they justify prosecuting any other types of assault?
To the FBI and to those police departments that have picked up their categorization system for crime statistics, Los Angeles and, I believe, New York, for example, DV cases are lumped into assault, which has caused some controversy because it makes it difficult to get an accurate picture.
October 12, 2011 @ 11:44 am
Speaking as a past DV victim and witness, I’m completely disgusted. This is a huge step back for victims. These poor people already feel like they don’t get taken seriously, how do they feel now that the people who are supposed to be on their side say, “well, if the government pays me, I’ll prosecute.” Just ugh.
Stephen A. Watkins
October 12, 2011 @ 11:53 am
Wow. Just… There are not words.
October 12, 2011 @ 12:01 pm
Wow. This is just sickening.
Erik de Bie
October 12, 2011 @ 12:05 pm
Well, they could just shoot offenders on sight. That’d be cheaper.
Seriously though, this decision is completely and utterly ridiculous. It crosses the line past asshole into some really, really dark territory.
October 12, 2011 @ 12:48 pm
When I read this in the news last night, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, we talk about how much libraries are hurting, and arts funding is hurting, and education is hurting, and all those things are true…but even if all those things need to be cut to do it, the government’s first job is to enforce the law and protect its people. Shame on them.
Also, I hope at least one of the victims whose perpetrator got set free for budget reasons decides to sue. Class action, if possible.
October 12, 2011 @ 1:03 pm
It’s strange that they’re talking about saving money when there are at least two legal precedents (Bruno v. Codd and Scott v. Hart) where the victims of domestic violence were permitted to sue cities and police for failure to protect due to discrimination they suffered in part because the offenders were intimate partners. That is one of the main reasons we have the mandatory arrest policies in many states and the fear of lawsuits shaped a lot of policies on the matter. I suspect Topeka and this abysmal excuse for a sack of skin District Attorney can look forward to some interesting lawsuits in the near future.
October 12, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
Unfortunately, if someone sues, that’s when we start hearing about our over-litigious society and tort reform and personal responsibility and she’s just looking for a payday and blah, blah, blah.
October 12, 2011 @ 1:51 pm
This is disgusting. Mores because I know they are still going to arrest and prosecute non-violent drug users. We can stick nonviolent people in jail but not the assholes who beat their spouses? How can Kansas justify this?
October 12, 2011 @ 1:54 pm
If they need money, why not just have a large fine for first time misdemeanor DV? $20k should do it…
October 12, 2011 @ 2:00 pm
To stop prosecuting criminal cases to save money – I somewhat understand if we’re dealing with petty and certain misdemeanor offenses – but crimes of violence – not just DV – shouldn’t be included in that.
The part that is missing from this article though is that in many states, prosecution of DV is very, very difficult as too many times, the victim refuses to testify, making it almost impossible… to get a conviction – this is probably what Topeka is looking at when they claim this will save money. If they make arrests, etc and then have to drop the case because the victim won’t testify or worse get to court and the victim then refuses to testify on the stand – it does cost and everyone still loses. (Not saying it’s right – but this may be part of the ‘logic’ in this decision.)
DV has always been difficult to prosecute because of lack of cooperation from victims – and can you blame them, they’re scared – concerned that if they do testify and then something happens to release their abuser – they’ll be in worse shape.
This does not in anyway change the fact that this is stupid. (And I’m a conservative – thank you very much – for those people who seem to only blame conservatives for this type of stupidity). Some petty and misdemeanor offenses – maybe – after careful debate – but not ANY crime that includes any act of violence against another – and definitely not crimes of Domestic Violence.
I think I understand what the city was doing – but it’s not going to work. By removing the DV statutes from the city ordinances – it throws everything back on the county – because it is still a state law and that falls to the county courts to prosecute (not the city – they only prosecute violations of city ordinances). The problem is – since the county has opted to stopped filing on misdemeanor cases (and certain levels of assault are classified as misdemeanors – in some states. e.g. I slap you, that would be misdemeanor assault in Colorado) then the misdemeanor DV cases are getting caught in that.
NEVER should any type of assault or or crime that includes as act of violence against another be part of something like this.
In Colorado DV is a rider that is attached to any criminal act in which someone commits a crime (any crime – not just violence) against anyone with whom they have had an intimate relationship – doesn’t have to be a current relationship – I personally think it’s a bit broad – but will take that over non prosecution.
Of course if Colorado was doing this – it would also include DUI – which is also a misdemeanor crime as well. Curious if Kansas is still prosecuting those or if they are being released as well and no one is talking about those?
October 12, 2011 @ 2:01 pm
This makes me want to f’ing WEEP!
October 12, 2011 @ 2:57 pm
Welcome to the new austerity, our new era of simultaneous tax cuts and balanced budgets. Things will get cut. Games will be played to avoid spending money. People will die while groups fight for a shrinking pile of money. *sigh*
October 12, 2011 @ 3:06 pm
They’d bill the family for the bullet, no doubt. -.-
October 12, 2011 @ 3:51 pm
Interesting comments regarding this abhorrent subject. I am from Connecticut, where, for budget reasons, the state has stopped prosecuting possession of small amounts of marijuana by persons over 18. There are certainly better ways to reduce court costs than legalizing violence of any sort. This not only calls for action in legislature, action in elections, but for DV non-profits to get out and educate and protect victims. It is these groups that will need our help and support more so now. Sad days ahead!
October 12, 2011 @ 5:55 pm
Mr. Hines, I know that gaining more readers or book sales was not your intention by any stretch of the imagination, but I wanted you to know that with that restrained and yet to-the-point remark you have just got yourself another reader. I’m going to go and buy myself a couple of your books right now.
October 12, 2011 @ 6:09 pm
I’m not sure they’re legalising it as such, but… Well, I’m a bit confused. According to the source I’ve seen (Which I’ve put as my website for this post), it’s still illegal in the state of Kansas, so I would assume that overrides any local laws. Of course, I could be wrong.
But wouldn’t this put it on the level of, say, statuatory rape? That’s illegal but so few cases of it seem to ever result in prosecution and any punishment. I’m not saying it’s on the same level in terms of impact or anything like that, but in terms of that department’s list of priorities.
I think it’s a stupid idea, personally. You can’t make something like that suddenly “legal” or brush it under the carpet, because it’s a serious thing and it needs to be stamped out.
October 12, 2011 @ 6:26 pm
It’s not April 1st, and that’s not remotely funny.
I am completely boggled by this decision. I grew up in a household where violence was the norm, and it’s terrifying. I can’t comprehend how hard it was for my mother to throw my father out and MAKE it stick. I KNOW her complaints to the police were ignored. I cannot imagine how much worse it would be to finally build up that strength, only to be told “sorry, budget cuts”. I … I don’t think I can be rationally coherent about how wrong this is.
Jim C. Hines
October 12, 2011 @ 6:44 pm
Well, rape in general is very underprosecuted, for a variety of reasons that would require a whole other rant.
You’re right that domestic violence is still illegal at the state level. The city removed the statute from the city code, but have no power over state law. In theory, this dumps domestic violence cases onto the District Attorney … who has been refusing to prosecute misdemeanors, including domestic battery. (Though this may have changed — more information tomorrow as I gather it.)
In Michigan, the state decided to legalize medical marijuana. However, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. But that hasn’t stopped medical marijuana dispensaries from popping up all over the place.
Whatever the end result, in the meantime a number of batterers have been turned loose without being charged, freed from jail without trial, etc. And it definitely sends a very negative message about the city’s priorities…
October 12, 2011 @ 7:57 pm
And Mississippi is waging its own war against women with defining “Personhood”.
It’s blogs like yours that give me hope, though.
October 12, 2011 @ 8:11 pm
Aside from the moral outrage, which I have in spades, I agree that this just doesn’t make sense on any level. Exactly where is the line being drawn here?
I don’t know what the breakout in these domestic violence cases is, but it sounds as if the focus is on female partners being victimized by male partners. Not clear if there are significant numbers of same sex incidents, or incidents where a female partner victimizes a male partner, etc. And what about elder abuse or child abuse? I assume if a child is involved in any way, they’ll cherry pick that case and proceed with a prosecution and/or remove the child from the premises.
And what about animal abuse? Are they still prosecuting cases of animal cruelty?
Are women the only group being left unprotected by the courts/law? Sure sounds like it. (Also sounds like a civil rights issue.) At the very least, I hope the women voters of Topeka exercise one of the few rights they still apparently have and vote these clowns out of a job.
October 12, 2011 @ 8:11 pm
I look at this world sometimes and I am amazed at the progression that we have made for women’s rights. Then I read something like this and realize that we still have a long way to go to make this world fair and safe for women. I feel that lately politicians are in favor of moving backwards in terms of improving living standards for people. People want to repeal the health care act, squabble about budgeting, and now we are trying to put more constraints on women’s rights (men’s rights in a very small percentage of cases). We can’t become the nation we want to be if we are constantly under funding areas of society that need help. Why don’t they just make speeding legal instead? They could cut back funding on traffic law enforcement. This seems to make more sense to me than leaving families to fend for themselves against a drunk father or an abusive mother.
October 13, 2011 @ 4:37 am
Thanks for clarifying that, Jim 🙂
Ann Elise Monte
October 13, 2011 @ 5:12 am
Stuff like this is why I’m angry when people in my home country of Australia complain about stuff such as our upcoming Carbon Tax. At least we don’t have this to contend with.
October 20, 2011 @ 7:04 pm
Just found your blog using Bing. In additon to nursing, there is also the issue of male nurse uniforms.
you can read about it in Male Nurse Uniforms