Haslam supports cooling off period in cases of domestic violence; bill planned next year


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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A high-profile domestic violence case in Nashville has led to talk of more restrictions for defendants in such cases.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1pFukNs) reports Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said on Monday that he would support making a 12-hour "cooling off" period mandatory after someone has been arrested on a domestic violence charge.

"I think that makes sense," Haslam said. "I'm far from an expert on that, but from what I understand, it just feels like that is a common sense law."

The statement comes in the midst of a controversy over a Nashville case involving a prominent contractor who was released from jail a few hours after his arrest on a domestic violence charge. Police say he assaulted his girlfriend a second time shortly after being released.

Lawmakers in Middle Tennessee have said they plan to introduce a bill next year that would require people arrested on domestic violence charges to remain incarcerated for at least 12 hours. The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene in January.

The 12-hour period is meant to help victims stay safe while making any necessary arrangements, such as packing or moving. While Tennesse law suggests such a cooling off period, it doesn't mandate it and judges and waive it if they don't think its necessary.

Critics say not abiding by the recommendation could discourage victims from coming forward, and some suggest holding those charged for a longer time period.

"The less time the person is held, the more dangerous it becomes for the victim," said Barbara Sanders, a Nashville area psychotherapist who has handled domestic abuse cases. "Twelve hours is not enough."

Kathy Walsh, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, said her organization was involved when the current law was approved and said the 12-hour period came from concerns about legal challenges to holding a person longer.

State law forbids holding a person more than 72 hours without a hearing in front of a judge.

"We certainly want to protect victims," Walsh said, "but we also have to consider the rights of the accused."


Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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