Montana Public Radio

Bill Would Change Domestic Violence, Child Abuse Prosecutions

Jan 16, 2015

Credit William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

Friday morning, Montana legislators heard House Bill 37, which would allow past evidence to be part of current cases of domestic violence and child abuse.

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert testified that previous violent offenses could lead to more serious crimes.

“Domestic violence, it’s always a tragedy, and it can lead to homicide, it can lead to severe assault.”

Lambert says offenders can avoid prosecution by threatening or cajoling witnesses, leaving prosecutors with little evidence if prohibited from using past convictions.

Niki Zupanic of the American Civil Liberties Union says this might be true, but bringing up old evidence could lead to unfair trials.

“The reason we would want to put such limitations on the prosecution is that we generally don’t want people to be put on trial  for things that they’ve been accused of in the past. You can be a bad person and still not be guilty.”

Zupanic also noted there are already exceptions to allow past evidence to be used, including child sexual abuse.

No immediate action was taken on the bill.