Story by Hollye Carroll
Oklahoma organizes committed crimes into two categories: non-violent and violent. Currently, all domestic abuse offenses are considered non-violent but HB 1056 could change that.
Under the current law, persons who are convicted of crimes listed in Oklahoma Statute Title 21 Section 13.1 are required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they can even be considered for parole. This list includes crimes such as first and second degree murder, poisoning with the intent to kill, first degree burglary, bombing, child prostitution and forcible rape.
Since Oklahoma does not classify domestic abuse and violence as violent crimes, none of the offenses are on the 85 percent list.
HB 1056 will not only add these offenses to the 85 percent list, but will also dismantle the current jail sentencing options. As of right now, if people are convicted of a second or subsequent offense of domestic abuse, they face two options: custody of the Department of Corrections for no more than 10 years, or imprisonment in the county jail for no more than one year. HB 1056 will eliminate the latter option for those with multiple convictions.
“You might have somebody who has committed three different charges of domestic abuse and [under the current Oklahoma statute] they will get less time for doing it over and over again,” Mackenzie Masilon, public policy and communications coordinator for Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said.
Two examples of the current law include, “Any person convicted of domestic abuse committed against a pregnant woman with knowledge of the pregnancy shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one (1) year. Any person convicted of a second or subsequent offense of domestic abuse against a pregnant woman with knowledge of the pregnancy shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than ten (10) years.”
Masilon said that OCADVSA is in full support of HB 1056, but admitted that the realities of getting legislation passed is no easy feat.
“This session, we are trying to pass measures to classify [domestic violence] as violent crimes,” Masilon said. “I feel like nobody is talking about this so it’s good that we have bills out this session trying to rectify that but we are also up against a slew of criminal justice reform bills to let out low-level non-violent offenders. That’s all well and good but unless we’re able to classify these as violent crimes — that’s who is getting out.” (see Figure 1).
According to the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Board, between 1998 and 2017, 1,697 victims lost their lives to domestic violence in Oklahoma; of the 1,697 victims, 44 percent were killed by intimate partners. Charges were filed in 62 percent of the 28 intimate partners homicide cases in which the perpetrator lived. The remaining nine cases involved the death of the perpetrator. At the time of this report, 13 out of 23 cases have resulted in convictions. The remaining cases are pending in the court system, (see Figure 2).
HB 1056 has passed through the House Committee assigned to hear the bill and it’s now up to the House of Representatives to vote on before ultimately ending up in the Senate. Contact local representatives for more information about the bill.
To find out who your representative is, visit www.oklegislature.gov/FindMyLegislature.
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