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Domestic violence legislation important, but so are defendants' rights

Our readers may have heard about the battles going on between Republicans and Democrats over domestic violence legislation in recent weeks. Senate Democrats are, as Kathleen Hunter writing for Bloomberg point out, urging members of the House to promptly pass legislation reauthorizing assistance to victims of domestic violence. The Senate reportedly passed the legislation last week.

The bill would reportedly authorize $660 million for domestic violence shelters and police training through 2016. The goal is to provide law enforcement agencies the resources necessary for prosecuting and convicting offenders and assisting victims with support services and legal protections.

Since the law was first enacted in 1994, domestic violence has reportedly dropped by over 50 percent. Domestic violence is still a widespread problem, with one in three women in the United States who experiencing rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

Those statistics comes from a national survey conducted in 2010. The survey also found that over 12 million persons experienced domestic violence over a one-year period. Also, the survey noted that, while women are most often the victims of domestic, men are also victims.

Republicans in the Senate had opposed the original bill, particularly a provision that expanded the number of visas available to domestic violence victims who aid criminal investigations. Sources said that 15 Senate Republicans did join Senate Democrats in support of the measure, though.

Our regular readers know that, while it is important to condemn domestic violence itself and to offer aid and protection to victims, those accused of domestic violence should be treated fairly and their rights respected. It is easy to condemn those accused of a crime everybody loathes, but affording the accused all the protections and the defense they are due is the just thing to do.

Source: Bloomberg, "U.S. Senate Passes Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence," Kathleen Hunter, April 27, 2012.

Tags: domestic violence, domestic violence legislation

4/23/12

Preliminary breath tests: refusal to take them can result in harsher penalties

Authorities are saying that a car crash in Seattle law Thursday was the result of a drunken driver wanted on a warrant attempting to avoid arrest. The accident reportedly resulted in the injury of a Vancouver woman. According to police, the incident began when an officer noticed the registered owner of a vehicle had an outstanding warrant and attempted to stop him on a traffic infraction. Instead of stopping his vehicle, the defendant reportedly accelerated and left the officer behind.

The incident went badly when the driver ran a red light and shortly afterward struck a Ford Focus driven by a 33-year-old Vancouver woman. The suspect and two others were reportedly sent to a local hospital for treatment of injuries. The defendant, a 33-year-old Vancouver man, was arrested on suspicion of DUI. Sources didn't indicate what evidence there may have been in support of a DUI charge. Evidence often includes breathalyzer readings, though it isn't clear whether any such readings were taken in this case.

As our readers may know, preliminary alcohol breath tests-those administered during a traffic stop-are used by officers to confirm their suspicion that a DUI has occurred. They do not take the place of breath tests administered once a suspect has been arrested. Preliminary breath tests are not known for their accuracy, and various foods or medicines can interfere with the accuracy of such devices. DUI defense often involves challenging the accuracy of these devices.

One thing our readers should know about preliminary breath tests is that refusal to submit to them is not a right under Washington law. By virtue of holding a Washington driver's license, one gives implied consent to such tests. Refusing to take such a test could result in more severe punishments if one is eventually convicted of DUI, including revocation of one's license for at least one year.

Those who take the test may be able to have the results of the test suppressed from evidence because of the way the traffic stop was conducted or because of the accuracy of the device is called into question.

Source: Oregonlive.com, "Minor injuries reported after suspected DUI driver hits car head-on north of Vancouver," Kate Mather, April 19, 2012.

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