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Published November 09, 2012, 11:01 AM

Minnesota high court will hear domestic abuse law challenge

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court recently agreed to consider a challenge to a state law designed to protect domestic abuse victims.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court recently agreed to consider a challenge to a state law designed to protect domestic abuse victims.

The law allows judges to impose no-contact orders for those suspected of domestic abuse. Minnesota judges issued nearly 11,000 domestic abuse no-contact orders last year, according to court records.

Bryan Ness, 33, was accused of striking his wife at their Moorhead apartment in January 2011. When he appeared in Clay County District Court to face charges for the assault, a judge ordered him not to have any contact with his wife.

Ness pleaded guilty to a charge of domestic assault, a misdemeanor, but was later arrested for violating the no-contact order and charged with a felony. Ness argued he was never given a chance to respond to the order, a violation of his right to due process.

Defense attorney Mark Nyvold said the state had no burden of proof to show that the order was needed. A Clay County judge agreed, ruling that the domestic abuse no-contact order is unconstitutional.

"As the district court judge who found the statute unconstitutional said, basically there are no standards," Nyvold said. "There is essentially limitless discretion."

The law creates another criminal case without due process, Nyvold argued.

"The attractiveness of a DANCO (domestic abuse no contact order) for the prosecution is that once that order is imposed it carries separate criminal penalties that could exceed the ones that exist for the underlying case for which it was issued," he said.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the Clay County ruling and Ness appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Clay County prosecutor Pamela Harris said she requests one in every domestic abuse case to protect victims.

"It also maintains some integrity to the judicial system because obviously we don't want the defendant getting out and going home and telling the victim what to say when she comes to court," Harris said.

Minnesota Public Radio News said the high court is expected to consider the case early next year.

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