- Associated Press - Sunday, September 14, 2014

MONROE, La. (AP) - A new Louisiana law that requires court hearings on felony domestic abuse charges is increasing workloads.

The law, which took effect Aug. 1, says a court must conduct a hearing within five days of an arrest on felony abuse charges to determine if bail should be set. In the meantime, the arrested person must remain in jail.

The News-Star reports (https://tnsne.ws/1uxDcaw) 35 hearings have been held under the new law since Aug. 28 in Fourth Judicial District Court, which covers Ouachita and Morehouse parishes.

Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones says he will likely have to make changes in his office because of the increased workload, but supports the law.

The delay, he says, will allow the victim to secure alternate living arrangements and seek help while the accused has time to “cool off.”



Under the law, if a court finds it’s likely a suspect would inflict further harm, bail can be denied. The bill also calls for a pre-release protective order and allows the court to require electronic monitoring so police can keep track of whether the offender is violating an order to stay away from the person an order is supposed to protect.

It’s called Gwen’s law, after Gwen Salley. Her husband Michael Salley killed her and then himself on May 2 after he was released from the Caddo Parish jail on charges of holding his wife and daughter at gunpoint.

“For me, it will mean more hearings, more courtroom time, and I may have to hire an attorney just for Gwen’s law,” Jones said. “But in domestic violence cases, it’s well worth it.”

Not everyone agrees with the presumed intent of the law.

“It’s a continuing erosion of the presumption of innocence,” attorney Charles Kincade said. “Historically bail is simply to ensure an appearance in court, but when taking into account factors like public safety and threat to the victim you’re eroding the presumption of innocence basically to the point they will be presumed guilty.”

Kincade believes the new law will cause confusion and disruption in courts and that the mandated hearing could become “mini-trials.”

Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, who introduced the bill, said if it creates an overwhelming drag on the legal system, he’s open to changes, but if the new restrictions can save even one life, he believes it’s worth it.

“I think the domestic violence statistics would bear out that we need something more stringent than we have now,” he said. “We need to see how this is going to play out. If we see it is creating a burden, we can always change it. No law is ever perfect.”

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Information from: The News-Star, https://www.thenewsstar.com

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