OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation requiring courts to consider abuse in sentencing for cases of the murder of domestic partners passed the House Judiciary - Civil Committee Thursday.
House Bill 3640, authored by Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, creates the Domestic Abuse Survivorship Act. It requires that the court must consider as a mitigating factor that a person found guilty of the homicide of their intimate partner had been abused physically, sexually, economically or psychologically by that partner.
HB3640 requires at least one proof of evidence, such as a sworn statement from a witness to the domestic violence, an order of protection, or a record from the court, social services, law enforcement or hospital. Under the act, if a court finds evidence that abuse occurred within one year before the offense, it can depart from the applicable sentence.
"It's so easy to say 'this person should have done this' or 'they should have done that,' but that attitude fails to take into account not only the very nature of abuse, but the specific details of each survivor's situation as well," Hasenbeck said. "In contrast, the Domestic Abuse Survivorship Act requires the consideration of all details of the relationship between the offender and the deceased prior to sentencing."
Hasenbeck pursued similar legislation last year, but she says the biggest change this year is the option for currently imprisoned people with similar cases to petition for sentencing relief. If the court finds evidence that the applicant is a survivor of domestic abuse, the court may reduce the original sentence. There is no period of limitation for applications of relief.
"Each survivor's circumstance and case is unique, and House Bill 3640 allows for consideration of the full scope of the situation not only in future cases, but for domestic violence survivors sitting in our state prisons right now," Hasenbeck said.
The bill also requires certain attorneys to complete three hours of education and training annually on domestic abuse survivorship, as well as requires presentence investigations to include whether the offender previously survived abusive relationships, sexual assaults or human trafficking.
According to the Oklahoma Dept. of Health, 40% of Oklahoma women and 38% of Oklahoma men have experienced violence, rape or stalking from an intimate partner at least once in their lives.