Full Senate Passes Domestic Violence Prevention Bills; Would Help Prosecute Felony Cases, Increase Penalties

The Mississippi Senate today unanimously passed bills to increase the penalty for domestic violence and to improve the procedure for prosecuting felony domestic abuse.

“I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for their attention to the issue of domestic violence, and for their unanimous support of these bills today,” said Longwitz. “Lt. Gov. Reeves gave these bills his full backing from the beginning, and we could not have done it without his help. I hope our counterparts in the House will take this chance to punish abusers and protect victims.”

Current law mandates that law enforcement officers make an arrest and file an officer affidavit where they find probable cause that misdemeanor, or “simple,” domestic violence has occurred. The bill would also make arrest and officer affidavit mandatory for cases of felony, or “aggravated,” domestic violence. The goal of these laws is to separate the abuser from the victim, and to create an affidavit whether the victim is willing to file one or not.”

Longwitz said the measure is long overdue. “When the original misdemeanor law was passed, the felony language was left out, and nobody can explain why. Adding the felony language just makes sense. It means that the worst cases can be prosecuted, and victims can get the protection they desperately need.”

Mary Ann Kirby is a spokesperson for Heather’s T.R.E.E., an organization that supports victims of domestic violence and advocates for changes in the law to protect victims. According to Kirby, “This bill is an important step in fighting domestic violence and keeping victims safe from their abusers. Our organization exists to help fight domestic violence and keep victims safe from their abusers. This bill will help get more prosecutions, will protect women and will get victims the assistance they need. We are grateful to the Senate and to Sen. Longwitz for their attention to this issue that affects so many lives.”

Madison and Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest praised the legislature: “I’m pleased to hear that we may get a stronger procedure for felony domestic violence when there is probable cause. These are the most serious cases of abuse, and law enforcement needs all the tools we can get to prosecute them and protect victims.”

In addition, another domestic violence bill authored by Longwitz, SB 2626, passed the full Senate today. This bill increases the possible penalty for domestic violence assaults. “We needed to correct an imbalance in the law,” said Longwitz. “If this becomes law, the penalty for abusing a human will be greater than the penalty for abusing a cat or dog.”

The bills will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration by that body.

Sen. Will Longwitz Press Release
2/14/14