A fight between county and city officials may end in the repeal of Topeka's domestic violence laws.
Budget cuts have caused the Shawnee County District Attorney's office to announce that it will no longer prosecute misdemeanors, including domestic violence. The city attorney's office also insists that Topeka does not have the resources to prosecute these crimes.
In an attempt to force the county to relent, the Topeka City Council is now considering repealing its domestic battery laws.
Won't this legalize domestic violence?
Legally, no. Realistically, probably not.
County and state laws criminalizing domestic violence will still be applicable. The same goes for all laws prohibiting basic battery.
But such laws are irrelevant if they are not enforced. And this entire dispute is about who is responsible for enforcement.
Both county and city officials have the power to prosecute violations of state, county and city domestic battery laws. However, Shawnee County has traditionally been responsible for domestic crimes, reports The Capital-Journal.
The city believes that a repeal of Topeka's domestic violence laws will provide it with an excuse not to enforce county and state laws. Shawnee County will then have no choice but to prosecute.
Whether this happens is irrelevant. The fact is that not enforcing domestic violence laws opens both the county and city up to liability. A failure to prosecute can lead to a lawsuit in the event that someone is seriously injured by a repeat offender.
County and city officials will need to come to an agreement soon if they wish to protect themselves and their jobs. It may involve the repeal of Topeka's domestic violence laws, or it may not. But there's little chance that a group of politicians will want their inaction to effectively legalize domestic violence.
- Topeka Kansas Considers Decriminalizing Domestic Violence (Forbes)
- Domestic Violence (FindLaw)
- What Happens When You're Charged with a Crime (FindLaw)