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Federal push to put domestic violence offenders behind bars

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana wants domestic violence victims to seek federal charges.

Most domestic violence cases are handled on the local level and to take one federal a key item needs to be involved, a gun.

“Guns in a domestic violence incident increases the chance of death by 500%,” said Danyette Smith, the director of Domestic Violence Prevention at the Indy Public Safety Foundation.

How often do domestic violence situations include guns?

“Quite often. I don’t have an exact number, but there are a majority of the cases that include guns,” Smith said.

The US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Indiana explained to I-Team 8 when a domestic violence case involving a gun rises to a federal level.

“We’re going to look at their prior convictions. We’re going to look at their history of abuse and we’re going to do an assessment of how much of a risk of gun violence does this person pose. And we’re going to prioritize the people who we think are the highest risk,” U.S. Attorney Zachary Myers said.

Domestic violence is just the jumping-off point for the crime easiest to prosecute, the illegal possession of a gun.

“It lets us prosecute the firearm crime and sort of remove the need to be retraumatized by talking about the abuse you’ve suffered on the stand at trial,” Myers said.

When they get a conviction, “federal sentences can be more severe at times. There’s no parole in the federal system and people serve 85% of their time,” Myers said.

Smith says a focus on taking cases federally will have a direct impact on survivors’ ability to set up a new life.

“In regular jail when someone’s locked up for domestic violence they have so many hours and they can get out. Well, we know that with the Federal courts, it’s not that easy, so that alone can give a survivor some time,” Smith said.

Myers told I-Team 8 that local law enforcement, in partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, is the one who forwards cases to them for federal prosecution.

If you’re a survivor of domestic violence and a gun was involved, make sure to tell the police so they can forward the case to federal prosecutors.