EPD Sergeant Teams Up With State Representative on New Domestic Violence Bill

Previously just a misdemeanor, the law now raises the crime of domestic battery to a Level 6 felony if the victim has a protective order against the suspect or if the court has issued a no-contact order, and that means potential jail time.

Posted: Oct 3, 2021 5:23 PM
Updated: Oct 3, 2021 6:15 PM

While many associate October with pink ribbons and breast cancer awareness, the month is also putting a focus on another problem.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, shedding light on a nationwide epidemic that also plagues our Tri-State communities.

But it's not one many organizations are working to fight, and when it came to repeat offenders, one local officer noticed a glaring problem.

"I thought there was a little, maybe an injustice in the way that the domestic violence charges were there," Sergeant Matt Karges with the Evansville Police Department said.

Sgt. Karges has held several positions with EPD over the years, but when reading officer reports as a motor patrol supervisor, he noted the gap between existing laws and enforcement, ultimately leaving victims more vulnerable.

"I'd recommend, ''Hey, I'll get a protective order; help keep this guy from you' and I don't know how many times I've heard 'Oh, that's just a piece of paper'," Karges said. "We're telling people that hey, they've gone out of their way to get this protective order to try and protect them to try and keep this person away from them, and when the actual fear came to fruition, they got abused or battered or hurt, the protective order didn't do anything extra for them."

It was an injustice he wanted to correct so he reached out to local State Representative Wendy McNamara. She represents District 76 which includes portions of Posey and Vanderburgh counties.

"It's those victims who find themselves in unconscionable situations of domestic violence," Rep. McNamara said. "I want to do everything we can to make sure we try and do the best we can to keep that person safe," Rep. McNamara said.

With help from Indiana Senator Michael Crider, Senate Bill 0079 was signed into law in the last legislative session.

Previously just a misdemeanor, the law now raises the crime of domestic battery to a Level 6 felony if the victim has a protective order against the suspect or if the court has issued a no-contact order, and that means potential jail time.

A Level 6 Felony carries a sentence weight of 6 months to 2 1/2 years.

"We'll see that the penalty matches what the victimization is," McNamara said. "As Chair of Courts and Criminal Code, I have a lot of legislation that comes to this particular committee in regards to crimes against women, against men and knowing that we have an advocate in the EPD to recognize situations like this as far as many others, I am very thankful that I have them as a partner in doing a lot of this work."

So far this year, as of Friday, EPD has received 4,417 domestic-related calls, including Family Disputes, Domestic Violence (Dv) in Progress and Dv Reports, though Karges said that number probably doesn't paint the whole picture.

He's hoping however, the new law will help to usher in some change.

"To know that hey, maybe now we'll be able to use this out on the streets; being a policeman, seeing some other policemen will get to put the charge on someone that deserves it," Karges said.

Domestic crimes are some of the most common our officers see. Karges said EPD gets calls on a daily basis.

So, while the calls may, unfortunately, never stop. It's enough to know his efforts will make a difference.

"It's against all the bad elements and it's all across the state so I think it's pretty cool, pretty neat," Karges said. "Hopefully things like this will keep picking up steam and become law in other states as well."

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence at some point in their lives.

The Evansville Police Department's Domestic Violence Unit is located at Holly’s House. Vanderburgh County residents seeking to file a protective order, unless they have a pending divorce or legal separation in another court, may file at the Vanderburgh County Clerk’s Office. There is no charge to file a petition for a protective order.

There are several other local sources for help, including the Albion Fellows Bacon Center and Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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