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Abuse victims get another shield from courts

Victims of domestic violence were given another shield for their protection recently by the Kitsap County Trial Court Coordination Council.

The KCTCCC, chaired by Judge Stephen J. Holman, has closed a loophole in the court system which had been putting already-victimized women in more danger.

Until Aug. 1, when the new procedure goes into effect, a person arrested in Kitsap County for a domestic violence offense on a weekend or holiday could bail out of jail without appearing in front of a judge, and also without a court order stipulating he (or she) not to contact the victim.

Often domestic violence offenders, angry they’ve been sent to jail, go right back to the scene of their first crime, endangering their victim again and again.

This can frequently be prevented on a weekday arrest, when the offender is taken before the judge the very next day, since Washington state law requires judges to determine if a no-contact order is appropriate at the offender’s first court appearance.

But if that appearance is on a Monday morning, one or two days after the original domestic violence arrest, problems might occur.

The Kitsap Trial Court Coordination Council has attempted to fix the problem.

From Aug. 1, 2003, any person arrested for a domestic violence crime who bails out of jail before appearing in court will be ordered by a judge not to contact his/her victim.

This order will be in effect for seven days or until the offender appears before a judge, who can then determine if the no-contact order needs to be extended, or dropped.

“It’s very, very good,” said Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Claire Bradley, who prosecutes many of the county’s domestic violence offenders. “In the past, the offender would be arrested over the weekend and then bail out. At this point if there is no no-contact order it is a very dangerous time for the victim. This is invaluable in terms of safety.”

Other counties have tried different solutions for this problem.

“In Spokane they had no bail for these offenders on weekends. But like everybody else they had full jails. This is sort of a compromise on that theory,” said Jeffrey Jahns, chief deputy prosecutor.

Jahns worked on the new procedure for more than a year.

“This is a very complex thing, getting all the diverse entities involved,” he explained. “But it’s going to happen. We’re printing the forms right now. If someone wants to bail out of jail on the weekend (on a domestic violence complaint) they have to agree to the no-contact order.”

The KCTCCC was formed in 2001.

Members include the presiding judges of the county’s Superior and District Courts, and the Bainbridge Island, Bremerton and Poulsbo Municipal Courts.

The county’s prosecutors, KCSO deputies and clerks also worked on this new procedure.

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