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Victim advocates push for new domestic violence legislation

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Advocates for victims of domestic assault want to make it easier to arrest people suspected of domestic violence in Minnesota.

Today, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women proposed legislation that would extend the time police have to arrest a person accused of misdemeanor domestic assault.

State law currently gives police 24 hours to make such an arrest without a warrant. The proposed law, written primarily by state Rep. Paul Rosenthal, DFL-Edina, and state Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, would give allow police to make an arrest in a "reasonable" amount of time.

The change is necessary because a 24-hour limit makes it too easy for alleged abusers to get away -- especially if they commit a crime on a Friday night, Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said.

"Law enforcement have responded to many of these cases where they have had these offenders who have fled the scene and on Sunday morning they go and check on that person only to find the offender back in the home, knowing that they cannot be arrested at that point on a warrantless basis," he said.

Schnell said it can be difficult to get an arrest warrant on the weekend. 

Minnesota's 24-hour time limit applies only to misdemeanor-level domestic crimes. There is no time limit for felonies.

According to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, 33 states allow police more time to make arrests in misdemeanor cases before obtaining a warrant. The organization's report notes that domestic violence claimed the lives of 37 people in Minnesota last year, 24 of whom were women killed by a current or former partner. Seven men were killed by "intimate partners."

The report also cites six other deaths in which friends or family members of the victims were also killed.

"While these numbers are shocking -- and our collective tragedy to bear -- we resist the urge to call the 37 lives lost a trend or out-of-the-ordinary, as the number of people murdered from intimate-partner homicide has, for 25 years, continuously remained in the double digits, which is our biggest tragedy of all," said Becky Smith, a spokeswoman for the group.

The coalition also wants legislators to pass a law that would require authorities to notify victims of the location where an abuser is released from jail.