DVAC is concerned about the governor’s position on SB 2638 and his intention to veto it

DVAC is concerned about the governor’s position on SB 2638 and his intention to veto it

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Domestic Violence Action Center started this petition to Governor Ige

The Governor has indicated that he is reviewing SB 2638, for a possible veto. This Bill pertains to the crime of domestic violence.

The Bill passed this Session, after several years of extensive discussion among the stakeholders, including the Public Defender’s office, the Honolulu Prosecutors Office, with weigh in from other county Prosecutors to find ways to improve the criminal justice system.  The current system is faltering in its efforts to improve survivor safety and offender accountability. The Women’s Legislative Caucus conducted a Listening Tour and visited with domestic violence survivors in communities across the State, learning about the ways the system is not functioning effectively to reduce harm, and the ways the system has failed them.

The reason cited for the possible veto was that abusers, due to the deferral option provided (deferred acceptance of guilt when charged with this crime) does not prohibit abusers from possessing firearms. A "Deferral" (deferred acceptance of guilty plea) is a special type of plea that allows a defendant to plead guilty or no contest, yet keep his record clear of a criminal conviction. To be eligible for the Deferral, the defendant must meet certain requirements and does not have a significant criminal history. In the current practice, offenders are often granted deferrals of acceptance of guilt pleas.

There are also many instances where victims seek restraining orders which prohibit the respondents (their abusers) from possessing firearms or ammunition.  Abusers often obtain or possess illegal/unregistered firearms anyway -- a great danger to survivors and island families. There are strong firearms laws in place in Hawaii, enforcement of those laws pose challenges. If firearms in the hands of abusers (with the deferral) is the concern, policy change and leadership is necessary to keep firearms out of the hands of abusers.

Further, there are currently challenges experienced by survivors related to the jury trial demand. The volume of cases coming into the system makes it impossible for the court to conduct the requisite number of jury trials. Hawaii Rules of Penal Procedure Rule 48(b) governs dismissal of a criminal case if trial does not commence within 6 months.  Generally, the “clock starts ticking” from the date of the arrest, if bail is set, or from the filing of the charge, whichever happens first.  With the delay, the right to a speedy trial is not met. And many,  many cases are dismissed. No justice. No safety for victims and their children.

Lastly, when cases go to trial, the vast majority of cases end in acquittals.  (The complexity of domestic violence is often beyond the understanding of jurors). this means the abuser is able to possess firearms.  The option for a bench trial, conducted by a judge, who is trained to understand the dynamics of abuse, level of risk, the profiles of survivors and defendants, and with the evidence can adjudicate the case with greater ease and in a more timely fashion.

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At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!