OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new bill would reduce the maximum sentences for crimes committed by survivors of domestic violence, if evidence is provided.
HB 1639, authored by Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, would reduce maximum sentences of five years down to three years, 10 years down to five years, and 20 years down to seven years.
The lawmaker said the bill, which is known as the Universal Defense Act, primarily supports women that are in abusive relationships but can extend to anyone in a similar situation.
“I want to protect that person who had to fight for their life in their bathroom or their bedroom at 3:00 in the morning,” said Hasenbeck.
Evidence of physical, economic, sexual, and psychological abuse could result in a reduced sentence and help define a crime as “self-defense.”
Here is the list of allowable documentary evidence:
- court record,
- presentence report,
- social services record,
- hospital record,
- sworn statement from a witness to the domestic violence who is not the defendant,
- law enforcement record,
- domestic incident report, or
- order of protection
For months the bill was being created with the help of the Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.
Collen McCarty, the executive director, said Wednesday’s vote sends a positive message to victims of abuse.
“This is a historic moment,” said McCarty, trying to avoid tears. “This is the first time that a lot of survivors feel that the voices are being heard.”
McCarty also said that this bill would help women that are currently serving a sentence, allowing them to earn a resentencing hearing.
“We don’t think anybody is at fault for these cases going wrong, but we do think that justice has not been delivered in the cases where survivors are being prosecuted,” said McCarty.
The bill was passed unanimously in the House Judiciary – Criminal committee.
Hasenback did strike the title of the bill, which gives her more time to make necessary changes.
She said the extra time is beneficial to hear more input from law enforcement.
The deadline is the end of March.