By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A local legislator is trying to make state law tougher on domestic violence offenders.
State Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Rocky Boy, has sponsored a bill that would increase the fines and jail terms for people convicted of partner or family assault and would upgrade a second offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on Windy Boy's bill. If it passes the committee, it will go to the full House for a vote.
Windy Boy said he sponsored the bill because Montana's laws need to be tougher on domestic abusers.
"I've always been an opponent of domestic violence," he said today. "I've seen too much of it happen in my life."
Animal cruelty is considered a felony on the second offense, Windy Boy noted, but partner or family assault is still a misdemeanor on the second offense.
"You kick an animal twice, and you're a felon," Windy Boy said. "If you kick a woman twice, it's still a misdemeanor."
Windy Boy contacted Monica Gallegos, a member of the Havre Business & Professional Women's Organization, and asked her to testify at Tuesday's hearing. Windy Boy had told the organization over a year ago that he planned to sponsor such a bill, she said.
Gallegos, who said she has dealt with domestic violence in the past, said she "felt honored" to do her part.
"I very strongly agree with what the bill represents and the changes he has proposed," she said today.
The minimum fine for a first offense would be increased from $100 to $250 under the bill, and the minimum jail term would increase from one day to three days.
A second-time offender would be a convicted felon and sentenced to at least one year in state prison, up from a three-day sentence in the county jail.
The third offense would be punished with at least one year in prison, up from a 30-day minimum sentence. The bill would remove provisions in the law that allow a third offense to be considered a misdemeanor.
Windy Boy said he hoped that the tougher penalties would promote the use of counseling that is already provided for under the law.
"Hopefully the stiffer penalties will encourage the judges and prosecutors to require anger management (counseling)," he said.
The bill is HB 611.