In the waning hours of their 2023 session, lawmakers pushed through a 43-page bill to strengthen Washington’s safety net for victims in domestic violence cases
The legislation takes steps to expand training for cops and judges, toughen requirements on suspects to surrender weapons and deploy special teams to identify and intercede in cases with a high risk of resulting in homicide. Supporters were glad to see the bill pass. But it’s also narrower than some had hoped for.
The legislation will also deliver a model policy for the use of electronic monitoring, with victim notification technology, and establish a research center at the University of Washington to suss out the most effective strategies for preventing violence among intimate partners.
‘’This was the most comprehensive bill on domestic violence this session. We will make very significant forward progress,” said Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, the sponsor.
Yet it could have done even more, she lamented, had it not been sliced up by House colleagues and then trimmed further in the Senate.
“Absolutely, it will make an impact. But the impact will be more muted than I hoped,” she said. “Given the breadth of the problem, this is an inadequate response.”
Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, echoed the sentiment April 22 before the House took final action on House Bill 1715.
He said the legislative slimming “reduced the effectiveness of this bill considerably.”
But it needed passing, he said, because “a little movement on domestic violence is better than no movement on domestic violence.”
Davis is a survivor of domestic violence. She obtained a five-year domestic violence protective order against a former partner, lobbyist Cody Arledge, in 2022. She cited what she said was an escalating pattern of obsessive and threatening behavior after she ended their relationship in mid-2021.
Arledge is required to wear an ankle bracelet with GPS monitoring that alerts authorities and Davis via a phone app if he violates conditions barring him from within 1,000 feet of her workplace. He’s challenged the legality of monitoring restrictions and the case is awaiting action in a state appeals court.
Davis’ legislation, which originally spanned 67 pages, reflects her interaction with law enforcement, courts, lawyers, and service providers, and her experience with technologies intended to keep her constantly informed of her alleged stalker’s whereabouts.
Among its highlights, this bill:
• Directs the Board for Judicial Administration to adopt standards by June 1, 2024, for the use of electronic monitoring with victim notification technology.
• Makes clear when a court issues a temporary protective order that also requires a person to surrender weapons, but then denies a full protection order, all terms of the temporary order will remain in place while the petitioner considers legal options.
• Requires judicial officers to receive training on preventing domestic violence homicide and best practices for surrender of weapons orders.
• Expands training for law enforcement on serving and enforcing protection orders, the intersection of firearms and domestic violence, and assistance to, and services for, victims and children. Assessing the lethality of situations in domestic violence cases is also an element.
• Funds a pilot program for “domestic violence high-risk teams.” Professionals, including victim service providers, will identify and intercede in cases with the potential for a deadly outcome.
• Creates a center of excellence in research, policy, and practice to reduce domestic violence at the University of Washington. A plan for conducting “scientifically rigorous intimate partner violence research” must be drafted by Jan. 15, 2024, and begin to be implemented by July of next year.
Making a difference
Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, shepherded the legislation through the Senate. While it wound up leaner than Davis hoped, it pushes the state forward in its handling of domestic violence.
“This does close some key procedural problems,” said Dhingra, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, who has years of experience working as a prosecutor. She also co-founded an organization that assists South Asian survivors of domestic violence.
Increased training for cops and judges, use of high-risk teams and better enforcement of rules for surrendering weapons are important gains, she said.
In addition, a new crime victim services work group is established in the new operating budget. This work-group will develop a plan for ensuring survivors’ access to legal and community-based assistance across the state. Part of the task is figuring out how to come up with the money to pay for these services.
Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, the ranking Republican on the House public safety committee, worked closely with Davis throughout the bill’s journey.
Davis’ disappointment didn’t surprise her.
“It was a big bill. The system is broken and we have to try something new,” said Mosbrucker. “I think next session we will put some pieces back in.”