The Louisiana House will consider modifying an anti-domestic violence law that the Legislature passed just last year.
The House Administration of Criminal Justice agreed on a voice vote to send House Bill 125 to the full chamber for consideration, though amendments are expected to address some concerns.
Named for Gwen Cox Salley, who was killed in a murder-suicide last year after a long period of domestic abuse, “Gwen’s Law” sailed through the Legislature and earned Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature in less than a month last session. The legislation sought to create a “cooling off” period for those accused of domestic violence by requiring protective orders be issued at the time of bail in some cases.
But now some in law enforcement have argued that the new requirement has unintentionally muddied up the process.
Gwen’s Law requires anyone accused of domestic assault be held least five days in jail before bail can be set and a hearing must be held.
Critics argue that has bogged down the system, creating more work for public defenders and judges who already face frequent backlogs.
Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, said some have sought to completely clear the law from the books. HB125, he said, attempts to strike a compromise.
“I have a duty here to try to create good policy,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done in this bill. I don’t know if it’s perfect, but this is a process that will go forward for the next few weeks”
Some legislators argued that the law hasn’t been given enough time on the books.
“Gwen’s Law is less than a year old. That’s a short period to measure its effect,” said Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport.
Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, said she’ll be working with both sides to fine-tune the legislation before it hits the House floor.
Gary Evans, who was Gwen Salley’s attorney and friend, said that his hope is the law will continue to protect domestic violence victims.
“If (Gwen) had a hearing, she’d be a live today,” he told the committee. “She didn’t, so she’s dead today.”