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House bill seeks to extend orders of protection for domestic violence victims

  

The Missouri Legislature could extend orders of protection — a way to aid victims of domestic and sexual violence — this year. 

HB 744 from Republican Rep. Lane Roberts would allow a judge to issue an order of protection valid through the entire lifetime of the respondent. This could be issued for second full orders following a court hearing. 

Current state statute allows protective orders for 180 days to one year. Full protection orders can be renewed twice, each for a maximum of just one year. A court can also include an automatic renewal for an order after one year; the respondent can, however, request a hearing at least 30 days before the expiration date. 

“The reality is, generally speaking, protective orders are intended to be even-handed for the petitioner and respondent, but sometimes there are instances when an individual is either a chronic offender or just doesn’t get the message,” Roberts told The Missouri Times. “It’s just patently unfair.”

“I can’t imagine how difficult it is for women to constantly go get those protection orders just to have them expire,” Roberts continued. “I don’t think people should have to live under the constant threat of this specter of abuse.” 

A former Joplin chief of police, Roberts spent more than four decades as a law enforcement officer and said he’s “sensitive to the issue of domestic violence.” He is also a former Department of Public Safety (DPS) director. 

As for HB 744, Roberts said he spoke with a person who was a victim of domestic violence and had to go through the process of obtaining a protective order “repeatedly.” The experience placed an “incredible hardship” on the victim, Roberts said. 

Roberts has also filed a second piece of legislation he said is intended to help survivors. HB 292 modifies the definition of “stalking” to include the use of third-party resources to communicate, observe, survey, or threaten another person. 

Roberts said he’s filed more bills this year than usual — so far, he has 12 on deck — but wanted to prioritize legislation to protect victims of abuse. 

“Those are the kinds of things you just don’t say no to,” he said. 

“Both bills seek to fix loopholes in orders of protection, but they do different things. Rep. Roberts filed the bills after hearing from survivors about barriers they experienced when seeking the safety of an order of protection,” Jennifer Carter Dochler, public policy director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV), said. “Survivors deserve safety, so we must continue to keep pace with the ways offenders find loopholes.” 

HB 292 was referred late last week to the House Crime Prevention Committee, which Roberts chairs. HB 744 has not yet been assigned to a committee; it was introduced on Jan. 7, and the House took this week off due to COVID-19 cases.