LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A recent change in our local legal system will impact how certain domestic violence cases are handled. Some told 8 News Now they’re upset over the recent shift Las Vegas has made. Now, North Las Vegas may also follow suit.
“It will have a ripple effect,” SafeNest CEO Liz Ortenburger said of the change in our local courts. “We see horrific levels of violence in the victims.”
Ortenburger spoke to 8 News Now about the recent ruling Las Vegas made to treat any misdemeanor domestic violence charge as “simple battery.”
“We don’t know what the short term solution is,” Ortenburger explained. “And that’s really why the city has to come to these sort of decisions.
In the past, a misdemeanor domestic violence complaint would come with mandatory counseling, jail time after a third offense and the confiscation of any firearms. Under the “simple battery” umbrella, that all goes away.
“When we are not doing anything to curb a batterer’s behavior,” Ortenburger added. “The likelihood of a repeat offense is higher.
The move comes after the Nevada Supreme Court followed a decades-old federal law to take guns or ammunition away from anyone with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. It makes the common crime serious enough for a jury trial, which Ortenburger said isn’t possible at a local level.
She added that The City of Las Vegas alone sees about 5,000 of these cases every year. However, the solution of dialing these charges down could potentially put more people in danger.
The natural succession to that would be that we are going to see homicide rates increase.Liz Ortenburger, SafeNest CEO
She added that domestic violence victims in homes with a firearm present have a 500 percent higher chance of becoming a murder victim. Since Nevada has the second-highest homicide rate in the country, these new indictment guidelines could cause things to escalate.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department also saw approximately 72,000 911 calls related to domestic violence in 2018. Ortenburger added that when a victim calls 911, it usually isn’t the first time he or she has been assaulted physically.
“What we’ve done is we’ve dialed ourselves back 43 years,” she added. “Back to before domestic violence was illegal.”
Therefore, Ortenburger and her team are searching for a better fix before the problem she calls “significant across our state” gets even worse.
“We have to find a better solution,” she concluded.
To put things into perspective: A domestic violence charge only becomes a felony when the suspect tries to strangle the victim or is violent towards someone who’s pregnant. Any other type of domestic, physical abuse is considered a misdemeanor and will now be classified as a “simple battery” charge.
The change has already been made across The City of Las Vegas. The North Las Vegas City Council introduced a similar amendment in Wednesday’s regular session meeting. The item has not yet been called to a vote or discussed, per the city’s public information officer.