Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell spoke in favor of one of Arizona’s new laws, known as “Kayleigh’s Law,” which aims to protect victims of sexual abuse further.
“As you know, I spent much of my career working with victims of crimes involving crimes against children and sexual assault, and so it’s very important to me that victims have protection and a voice in the system,” Mitchell said at a press conference. “So it was an incredible honor to work on the statute that I’m going to talk to you about that’s going to go into effect Saturday that will provide additional help for victims.”
As Mitchell explained, one of the provisions of lifetime probation for someone convicted of certain crimes, such as sex and violent crimes, is the inability of the defendant to contact the victim. However, if the probation were to be terminated by a judge, there would be nothing stopping the abuser from contacting the victim. The only way would be an injunction against harassment, but the person must have committed an act against the victim within the past year. If the crime occurred more than a year ago, the victim must wait until the abuser makes a move to qualify for protection.
DM Cantor shared that people with lifetime probation are recommended to serve at least seven years of the sentence before submitting a petition for early termination of probation. Basic requirements to submit the petition include paying all fees and restitutions and having no probation violations.
However, under Arizona’s new law, whether the crime was completed or preparatory, victims of abuse can petition the court to enter an order prohibiting the defendant from contacting the victim when terminating lifetime probation. Any order violation would result in a class one misdemeanor, ending in three-year probation or six-month jail time.
Kayleigh Kozak, the bill’s namesake, shared her story during the press conference. She was sexually abused as a child but learned her abuser was motioning to have his lifetime probation lifted, which would leave her unprotected should he try and contact her, leading to her testifying against his termination in court.
“Although I was very discouraged, I knew I had to do something because no victim should ever have to do what I had to,” Kozak said. “They should not have to reface their abuser ever again, and they should know that they have protection that lasts for their lifetime.”
Determined to right what she saw as wrong, Kozak contacted her local legislator, Kerr, and together they drafted a bill that is now Arizona law.
“Someone in my life once told me that I was one person. I wasn’t going to change anybody’s mind, and I am one person, and I have been able to make something good out of this horrible experience,” said Kozak.
Furthermore, her effect has spread outside of Arizona, as Wisconsin passed Kayleigh’s Law. State Representative Barbara Dittrich (R-Oconomowoc) brought the bill to Wisconsin.
Mitchell said Kayleigh’s Law was a first of its kind. Kozak described the passing of SB 1653 as an “instant sigh of relief,” but that it was not the end of her fight. She said having it in two states is great but not enough, and she will continue working to spread it across the country.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rachel Mitchell” by Rachel Mitchell. Background Photo “Maricopa County” by Maricopa County.