Suspects in domestic violence cases could soon be held in jail for a minimum of 24 hours under a new bill proposed in the Indiana statehouse.
Senate Bill 158, authored by Sen. Michael Crider, R-District 28, would extend the state’s mandatory holding period for domestic violence-related offenses to 24 hours.
Under Indiana law, suspects must currently be held for eight hours before they can be released on bail. However, Monroe County already has a mandatory 24-hour “cooling-off” period for all domestic battery arrests in which the suspect must stay in jail before they can post bail.
The bill passed the Indiana Senate Feb. 13 in a 47-2 vote and unanimously in the House March 21. If it passes the Senate again and is signed by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, the law would go into effect July 1.
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Crider said he was inspired to author the bill after writing Senate Bill 79, which was signed into law in April 2021. SB 79 enhanced the penalty for domestic battery to a Level 5 felony if the offender has a prior conviction for strangulation against the same family or household member.
A Level 5 felony is the second-lowest level felony charged in Indiana and can carry a sentence of up to six years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
Many domestic violence incidents happen late at night, Crider said, so the eight hours may expire before a survivor can seek out emergency shelter. He said the “cooling-off” period is intended to give victims more time to get away from the suspect if needed.
The National Crime Victimization Survey reported 60% of domestic violence offenses occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. at the victim’s home.
"What we're really trying to do is allow somebody to get separation if they have children, or if they need to make arrangements for if they have pets and other things,” Crider said. “It's a lot to expect somebody to do that in an eight-hour period, and really the goal is to give that victim—who is clearly traumatized by what's taken place—three times the amount of time to make some decisions."
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Kloe Timmons, a legal advocate at Middle Way House in Bloomington, said time and space from their abusers also gives survivors more time to seek crisis intervention and medical assistance and to process trauma, she said.
"Another thing is that abuse isn't just physical in these situations," Timmons said. "They’ve been emotionally abused, they've been manipulated, so it takes them more than 24 hours to get out of that grasp.”
However, some believe arrest is not the best solution. Monica Solinas-Saunders, an associate professor at IU Northwest who has studied interpersonal violence and incarceration, said she has found through her research that longer arrest periods negatively impact victims. She said long arrest periods can cause communities to resent victims for reporting the suspect.
"I think a blanket policy that mandates a longer period of arrest is not a good idea because no two cases of domestic violence are the same," Solinas-Saunders said. "It's not about how long one should stay for the cooling-off period. It really depends on the case."
She said suspects may need mental health treatment rather than a longer time in jail. She said responders to domestic violence situations should implement crisis intervention teams made up of police officers who are better trained in separating the suspect and victim, providing alternatives to arrest and de-escalating situations.
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"If all we have is arrest, and we are not considering intervention of mental health crisis teams, then I think we are taking the wrong path," Solinas-Saunders said.
While the bill is intended to give victims more time to escape the home situation, Solinas-Saunders said she believes victims should not have to carry the burden of leaving their homes. She said longer jail time for suspects may also lead the suspect to be fired from their job or other consequences, which victims may feel the effects of.
"The bottom line is, how can we have a flat policy like that without considering who is going to suffer the negative consequences of this?" Solinas-Saunders said. "It is usually the most vulnerable people in society."