The Kansas City Council voted 10-1 Thursday in favor of a change to the city’s domestic violence laws that is designed to allow swifter response to abusers who violate protection orders.
“We need to hold batterers accountable more quickly,” said Councilman Scott Taylor, who proposed the change at the urging of police.
Until now, abusers who violated a victim’s preliminary order of protection could be prosecuted only in state Circuit Court, and that could take time to get on the docket. Also, according to police, the state courts decline to file charges in many cases.
These preliminary orders, called ex parte orders, are issued when a victim first files for protection from an alleged abuser but before evidence is presented for a full order of protection.
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The change allows those violations of ex parte protection orders to be prosecuted in Kansas City Municipal Court. It creates a violation of the order if the batterer in any way contacts the victim before the court issues a full order of protection after a hearing.
A violation could lead to up to six months in jail or a maximum $1,000 fine.
Councilman Ed Ford, a lawyer who practices family law, was the lone vote against the new ordinance. He worried that it could prevent even legitimate communication between spouses about their children.
“How do you make arrangements if you’re not allowed to communicate?” he asked.
But city prosecutor Keith Ludwig said the prosecutor’s office will have discretion to evaluate reported cases and determine which are true violations of the ex parte orders.
Jesse Sendejas, domestic violence program director with the city prosecutor’s office, said the new law will get abusers into the court system more quickly and keep victims safer.
Ludwig estimated the change would add several hundred additional cases per year but said the city prosecutor’s office can handle the volume.