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Bill in Nevada Legislature would target strangulation cases


Domestic violence is an insidious crime because it happens to people in relationships who are supposed to love each other. Unless reported, it's often hidden, and many times, it can end in physical injury or death.

Earlier this month, the World Population Review ranked Nevada as having the fourth-highest rate of domestic violence. Previous surveys found 44% of women and 33% of men in Nevada had experienced intimate partner violence.

One particular form of abuse is getting more attention because of its lethality. Victims who are strangled or choked without consent are 750 times more likely to be killed by their abuser.

So state lawmakers have introduced a bill to address it during this year's legislative session. And people who deal with domestic assault are forming a special task force to tackle it.

Part of the task force's responsibilities is to examine how to serve victims better.

"We start by looking at the pipeline of strangulation," said SafeNest CEO Liz Ortenburger, one of the groups working with the task force.

"Right from when Metro responds to the time there's a medical exam, to the time we're providing advocacy, to the time it gets to prosecution, how can we work together to make sure that that process for a survivor as smooth and survivor-centered... every I is dotted and T's crossed, so that we have a felony offense and a strangulation case?"

The task force is tasked with helping those who deal daily with domestic violence cases know that strangulation cases are common and very lethal. Law enforcement is also a part of the task force.

"Domestic violence calls are one of the most violent calls you can go on, and as an officer, and one of the reasons is, is that it's a crime of passion," said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sergeant Craig Dunn. "We're able to meet and go over our hurdles together, you know, you did this, we did that, well, we could have done this better, or, Hey, how about we do this together, and that's where we're moving forward. Because it's all about the victims."

A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would make changes to how long the mandatory arrest for a person suspected of domestic violence would last.

AB51 states that, with certain exceptions, existing law requires authorities to arrest a suspect within 24 hours after they are believed to have committed battery constituting domestic violence.

The Nevada Legislature is considering a bill that would increase the amount of time domestic violence suspects must spend in jail before release. It's another tool prosecutors can use to crack down on abusers.

"If somebody is convicted of a domestic violence felony, they are 'once a felon, always a felon' for domestic violence purposes," said Morgan Thomas, assistant Clark County district attorney. "That means for if I was just to push [someone] and I had already taken a deal or was convicted of a domestic violence felony, that push is charged as a felony in the state of Nevada."

Another bill that looks to help victims of domestic violence is AB257. That measure would help offset the costs of strangulation testing.

"I think it's our responsibility, at least mine as a lawmaker, to also understand that there's a financial implication, and I think that's really where the county is," said Sondra Summers-Armstrong. "They just don't want us to take for granted that there is a financial implication here."

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Kristen Kidman is the senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.
Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.