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First step toward implementing Century Code in local ordinance on domestic violence

The Dickinson code regarding the treatment of domestic violence cases currently differs from the North Dakota Century Code. The Dickinson City Commission approved the first reading of the simple assault and domestic violence ordinance Monday afte...

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City attorney Haley Cripe, left, listens to comment from Dickinson City Commissioner Mike Lefor during a regular commission meeting on Monday evening. (Press Photo by Ellie Potter)
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The Dickinson code regarding the treatment of domestic violence cases currently differs from the North Dakota Century Code.

The Dickinson City Commission approved the first reading of the simple assault and domestic violence ordinance Monday afternoon that would make the local laws consistent with the state's.

Both simple assault and simple assault in the cases of domestic violence are considered to be Class B misdemeanors, meaning they are punishable to up to 30 days in jail, a $1,500 fine or both.

The Century Code then mandates that in a simple assault case with the domestic violence tag-meaning a conflict between two people with some sort of familial relation or between household members-the offender has to also complete a domestic violence offender treatment program, said Christina Wenko, a city prosecutor.

The court can only require the offender to attend anger management classes or individual counseling if a domestic violence treatment program is unavailable or the judge has a strong reason why this stipulation would be more appropriate, according to the first reading of the ordinance.

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If a person has additional assault cases with domestic violence, then the following offenses are considered a Class A misdemeanor, which the current local ordinance also does not stipulate.

"It wasn't preventing us from prosecuting people who commit simple assault, whether or not it was a domestic incident," said Haylee Cripe, a city attorney. "This just takes it one step further to allow for that elevated charge for the second offense on a domestic violence charge that we don't do with other simple assault charges."

Wenko said she usually included domestic violence treatment programs as part of plea deals despite it not being explicitly printed in the local laws, something she and her predecessors felt was important to help prevent the instance from recurring.

She noted the importance of consistency when handling sentencing in these cases.

"We need to be up-to-date with the North Dakota Century Code, and, especially with the circumstances of the ordinance, I think it's really important that we have the correct procedure in there," City Commissioner Sarah Jennings said. "I do believe that it's an issue. I think it's an issue everywhere, so it's important that our code is there to support the victims and make sure that people are receiving justice."

Wenko said the number of domestic violence cases has decreased with the population exodus since the oil boom ended but noted the issue is still prevalent in Dickinson.

Wenko said the clerks first brought the discrepancy between the two codes to her attention a few months ago. She then alerted Cripe.

The City Commission will have a second reading of the ordinance at their next meeting on Oct. 17 and community members are allowed to come and voice their comments or concerns, Cripe said. If the commission approves it, the local ordinance will be updated to reflect the state century code.

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The commission also unanimously approved its 2017 budget without any further discussion.

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