Several state legislatures have started taking a tougher stance on domestic assault. Nearly half a dozen states have either enacted or are considering tougher penalties for domestic violence within the last 12 months.
Wyoming lawmakers appear to be following the trend. According to the Casper Star Tribune, no less than three bills targeting domestic violence are working their way through the Wyoming State Legislature this year. The bills would toughen penalties on domestic violence, stalking, and strangulation offenses.
This year’s effort comes on the heels of a similar push during last year’s legislative session that ultimately failed to make it out of committee. Lawmakers decided to hand the issue over to the Judiciary Committee for consideration between legislative sessions.
Right now, Wyoming classifies stalking, a misdemeanor, as any “course of conduct” intended to harass another party, which can include something as simple as a verbal threat or as serious as vandalism. Victims’ rights advocates, among others, have criticized the state’s current penalties for stalking –up to six months of prison times and a fine of no more than $750 – as far too lenient.
Additionally, the current stalking law covers a course of conduct that would cause someone to “suffer substantial emotional distress, and which does in fact seriously alarm the person toward whom it is directed.” HB 0008 would remove the word “substantial,” while doubling the misdemeanor sentence to a year, as well as boosting a felony stalking conviction to 10 years.
Finally, the new bill would give judges more leeway in imposing tougher probation terms.
Changes in Domestic Violence
The other two bills in this package also propose tougher penalties for domestic violence offenders.
SF 0022, would make it a felony to stalk another party while a protection order is in force. The third bill, SF 0019, would “amend penalties for crimes related to domestic assault and battery to bring the penalties in line with penalties for other similar felonies,” including expanding the definition of a violent felon to include “strangulation of a household member” as well as a third or subsequent domestic battery. The bill would amend enhanced penalty provisions to include other crimes against household members as counting toward an enhanced penalty. These changes would prevent someone convicted of these offenses from later pursuing expungement.
Wyoming is just one of several states to take domestic violence much more seriously. If you have been a victim of domestic violence an experienced family law attorney can help. If you have been arrested or convicted of a domestic violence offense, an experienced criminal law attorney can help. Call Burg Simpson in Wyoming at 307-527-7891 of complete our Free Case Evaluation Form as soon as possible.