Attorney General Paul Van Dam and lawmakers have come up with a way to separate victims of domestic violence from their attackers to replace a "no-contact" law passed last year - a law Van Dam earlier said was unconstitutional.
"We have found language and a concept that will resolve the problem," Van Dam said Monday during a news conference called to announce the compromise legislation, SB129.The bill, which has yet to be sent to a committee for a hearing, repeals the "no-contact" law enacted by the 1990 Legislature as part of a package of domestic violence reforms.
Some law enforcement agencies stopped enforcing the law, which banned suspects in cases of domestic violence from their homes for at least 24 hours without a court hearing, after Van Dam said it was unconstitutional.
Van Dam, who reviewed the law at the request of Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom, found that it denied suspects their right to their property without due process.
His opinion on the bill stirred dissension from the state Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, which argued that the law should be enforced until its constitutionality can be determined in court.
Legislative attorneys took the Davis County Sheriff's office to the state Supreme Court on the question and won. Still, Van Dam said Monday the existing law may still be ignored in some jurisdictions.
The new legislation, sponsored by Sen. Boyd Storey, R-North Ogden, requires suspects to be arrested if police believe there will be continued violence, the victim has been seriously injured or a dangerous weapon has been used.
Once arrested, suspects can not be released, even on bail, until they agree in writing to stay away from the victim until the close of the next court day following the arrest.
The sponsor of the "no-contact" bill, Rep. Mont Evans, R-Riverton, said the new bill may not be as effective.
"Candidly, there is the possibility police officers will miss something and not provide the protection needed because there is discretion built into the law that was not there previously," Evans said.
"Obviously, it's less broad in its coverage," Legislative General Counsel Gay Taylor said. She added that legislative counsel was not involved in the drafting of the bill.
Van Dam's opinion sparked a conflict with the legislative counsel over the weight an attorney general's opinion should carry in regards to an enacted law that has yet to be resolved.
In the case of the "no-contact" law, the Supreme Court ruled only that the law must continue to be enforced until its constitutionality is successfully challenged in court.
That left law enforcement agencies in a dilemma, according to John Clark, counsel to the attorney general, of whether to enforce a law that would leave them open to lawsuits based on Van Dam's opinion.