Lawmakers are trying to crack down on lawbreakers who show a pattern of domestic violence.
The House is considering a bill that would make a person convicted of domestic abuse face a much stiffer charge should they choose to reoffend. The measure is Senate Bill 1491, also known as Kristin's law. It has already cleared its first hurdle by passing unanimously in the senate.
But will it face a challenge in the house with the budget crisis looming? Those involved in writing the bill hope that's not the case.
“Forty-one percent of all homicides in Oklahoma are derived from domestic violence,” said Sen. Bryce Marlatt of District 27,
Marlatt is one of the co-authors of Kristin's law. He says the bill is named after a survivor of domestic violence who he has personally met and who has become a behind-the-scenes crusader for other victims and survivors.
“She's been a champion on this issue,” said Marlatt.
Should SB 1491 be signed into law, it would change the legal definition of pattern of abuse. Under current Oklahoma law, a person has to be convicted of domestic violence three times in a 12-month period to meet the legal definition. Kristen's law would have it cut down to two convictions and cut out the time period entirely.
“A lot of time that third offense is when the death happens,” said Marlatt.
The Senator says without a doubt this bill would save lives by cracking down on repeat abusers. Under the bill, second time offenders would immediately face a felony instead of a misdemeanor and could face up to 10 years in prison, $5,000 fine. So far the legislation is seeing bipartisan support.
“Marlatt's changes to the statute will allow intervention earlier and will treat domestic violence like the serious crime that it is,” said Sen. AJ Griffin of District 21, who supports the bill and wants to see it pass.
But the bill still has to pass through the House and is yet to be heard by the Judiciary committee, who could ultimately refuse to hear it due to the looming budget crisis at hand.
According to the YWCA, Oklahoma ranks 6th in the nation for domestic-related murders. And domestic violence calls cost the Oklahoma City Police Department more than $8.5 million every year.