Harsher penalties at core of new domestic violence ordinance

August 22, 2013

By Peter Clark

The Issaquah City Council took the first steps in setting an increased penalty for domestic violence that was first discussed in a May goal-setting retreat.

The council voted on an ordinance in the Aug. 5 regular meeting that would mandate a minimum of 30 days imprisonment to those committing domestic violence in the presence of children.

“In an effort to break the cycle of domestic violence, protect children in domestic violence situations and rehabilitate abusers, the following ordinance is proposed to strengthen our current domestic violence laws,” the agenda bill reads. “This ordinance would make it a gross misdemeanor to commit a domestic violence offense in the presence of a child.”

Additionally, should an offender be found guilty and sentenced to less than the maximum statutory sentence, the court would impose conditions that include domestic violence perpetrator treatment as well as a program that addresses the effects of domestic violence on children.

“The single best predictor of children becoming either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence later in life is whether or not they grow up in a home where there is domestic violence,” the agenda bill reads. “This ordinance would help by protecting children and rehabilitating abusers through treatment programs.”

In the bill, the administration recommended the ordinance pass as written.

To the Issaquah Police Department, the ordinance could mean an extra step in derailing harm to local children.

“Obviously, the intent is to help have an impact on domestic violence,” Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum said. “There are many studies that say it has a drastic impact on children’s development. This provides a tool to prosecutors to help people get the help they need.”

Behrbaum said that the probable cause on which they arrest suspects in domestic violence cases could present problems proving that children were exposed to the incident, but stated that an ordnance would be of greater assistance to the prosecutor’s office.

“This is an enhancement to the existing domestic violence laws,” he said, adding that it would work in tandem with the police department’s purpose. “It helps us toward our goal of helping people.”

The council’s vote sent the ordinance to the Services & Safety Committee, which will look over it next month for review and recommendation. It will be returned to the full council for consideration at the Sept. 16 regular meeting.

Councilman Josh Schaer said he did not expect the ordinance to have any problem making its way through the process. He initially introduced the possibility of an ordinance at the goal-setting retreat. He said the idea came from the passage of a similar Federal Way law.

“I can’t see the Services & Safety Committee having any major concerns with it,” Schaer said. “The ordinance is clearly written in the agenda bill and everyone I’ve spoken to in Federal Way has said it has not increased costs.”


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