AG's task force to suggest changes to Missouri laws on domestic violence

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In three September meetings, Attorney General Chris Koster and a team of state leaders will ask groups involved in protecting victims of domestic violence how Missouri laws are or aren't working.

Koster announced Wednesday he has created a task force on domestic violence that will make recommendations to the Missouri Legislature on changes needed to improve laws preventing domestic violence and protecting victims.

"Victims of domestic violence are among our state's most vulnerable, and we owe it to them to make sure that we are working as seamlessly as possible through all aspects of our law enforcement and legal systems to protect them," Koster said in a news release from his office Wednesday.

Koster has invited legislators to participate as members of the task force, who will hold their first meeting Tuesday in St. Louis. There, the panel will include Sens. Joan Bray and Robin Wright-Jones and Reps. Tishaura Jones, Chris Kelly, Jeff Roodra and Jill Schupp.

Also participating in the meeting will be Allison Leonard, director of operations at the Safe House for Women shelter in Cape Girardeau. Leonard is also the Southeast Missouri regional representative on the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence Task Force.

"I think we've gotten a lot more aware of domestic violence and what laws are out there. There's still a long way to go as far as protecting people," Leonard said. "The fact that the attorney general is wanting to revamp our laws speaks about how serious they're taking this."

At the St. Louis meeting, Leonard plans to suggest to the task force three revisions to state law, including allowing rape victims to request drug testing at the time they're examined by a medical professional for evidence collection. If a victim was unknowingly given a "date rape drug," the testing would allow them to have a record of that. Currently, a rape victim must pay for a drug test themselves.

Also, Leonard said she'd suggest that there be a procedure for sexual assault victims to set up a temporary restraining order against their alleged attacker.

In addition, Leonard plans to bring up an improvement suggested at a state coalition meeting -- that is, allowing local law enforcement to confiscate firearms from an violent offender who has a restraining order against them. Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is the only agency allowed to confiscate firearms in that situation, Leonard said.

Following the St. Louis meeting, the task force force will be Columbia on Sept. 20 and Kansas City on Sept. 27.

Koster plans to release a report of task force suggestions in advance of the next legislative session.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

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