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Expedited procedures in Anoka domestic violence cases paying off

Anoka County, Minnesota has been testing a new domestic abuse procedure since Sept. 2011 -- and the project has received high praise. The project tackles a variety of areas pertaining to domestic violence, from court proceedings to the involvement of the victim and accused perpetrator.

Law enforcement was already using an on-call assessment to determine if a victim felt that further injury (or even death) could occur during the domestic violence episode. Adding to the assessment, the new project presents a method in which prosecutors can suggest that defendants who are released from jail be monitored, supervised or given drug tests on a random basis before the trail even begins. The defendants can also be given electronic monitoring.

These two elements certainly helped officials determine the severity of a domestic violence episode and dole out proper punishment while the courts began their work. But the new project wanted cases to be handled quickly. To achieve this, the Anoka County project establishes that a domestic violence case must be heard within three months of the defendant's first appearance in court.

The combination of provisions in this project keeps the victim involved in the legal process, something that can often elude court officials. The county communicates with the victim soon after the domestic violence incident, an act that also adds to the victim's legal involvement and keeps a case organized and on track. It also makes it less likely that a victim would recant or change their story (which could hurt the victim's case).

Previously, cases could take more than a year to resolve, placing victim and defendant alike in a stressful purgatory. Now, Anoka County is being praised for their domestic violence procedures, and advocate groups are calling for county officials to teach other's the project so that it may be implemented across Minnesota.

Source: Star Tribune, "Fast track for domestic violence cases is paying off in Anoka County," David Chanen, Mar. 28, 2012

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