Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

March 27, 2013

Assault case highlights legal loophole: A commentary

By Leeann Akers - Editor
Journal-Times

March 27, 2013 — Two men were arrested in Grayson Thursday night as the result of a domestic disturbance.

The names of those involved are not important because no one is being charged with a crime. However, the incident points out a major weakness in Kentucky law regarding a police officer’s discretionary authority to make arrests or issue citations.

A Grayson man and a younger male relative were arrested following an altercation at the home of a third relative.

Police officers were dispatched to the home of an elderly woman who earlier told 911 operators that a young relative was drunk and destroying her home and threatening her.

The woman also called her son about her concerns.

When police arrived, the young relative was removed from the home. The woman had gone to a neighbor’s home. Her son arrived as police were escorting the young offender out of the home.

Officers said they were unable to arrest him because state law states a person cannot be arrested for a misdemeanor offense that was not witnessed by authorities.

A recent revision of the state criminal code changed some offenses to require only a citation to appear in court and removal from the scene, as in this case, instead of being arrested, charged and jailed in lieu of bond.

Some offenses that would once have resulted in an arrest now are handled with a citation.

Also, there were no signs of physical abuse on the complaining party so an arrest could not be made under existing domestic violence criminal statutes.

Once the son of the elderly woman learned the police could not arrest the younger relative, he apparently became upset and initiated the altercation which police had to break up.

Both men were arrested initially for fourth degree assault which means no one was injured.

The older man was released immediately and the younger man was held at the Carter County Detention Center until he was no longer under the influence of intoxicants.

“In these types of domestic situations, we never know if the person might return to the home and cause more trouble,” said Det. Sgt. Travis Steele. “Sadly, without witnessing any vandalism of the home or threats against the victim, there was nothing more officers could do under the law.”

In my opinion, this situation shows a serious loophole in the law that should be corrected.

As private citizens, we should not have to take matters into our own hands to protect ourselves or our loved ones.

Police officers are trained to use their professional judgment in such matters. Why does the law stand in their way?

Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by phone at 474-5101.