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The Senate has been holding a lengthy debate on SJR 104, the constitutional amendment to respond to an Idaho Supreme Court decision regarding warrantless arrests for midemeanors that an officer didn't witness, before voting 17-15 in favor of the amendment – well short of the two-thirds needed for a constitutional amendment. Since the opinion, arrests that had been the standard practice in Idaho for years have been halted, including in numerous domestic violence cases. Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, the bill’s lead sponsor and an attorney, said the amendment “will restore Idaho’s longstanding practice.” Other senators who are lawyers agreed. “It backs us up to where we were before,” said Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa.

Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, debated against the amendment, saying he thought it should have been made in a different section of the Constitution. “In my opinion that part of our Constitution is almost sacrosanct. I don’t think it’s something we should be messing with,” he said.

Burgoyne, in his closing debate, said, “The amendment simply says that if an officer arrests without seeing the crime, that by itself doesn’t invalidate the arrest. … You still have to have probable cause, and the arrest must be authorized by a statute this legislature has passed.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, “I think one of the big reasons that this resolution should pass is in the issue of domestic violence. … I would urge your support of this. It’ll protect lives.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said in rural parts of Idaho, “It really has put the families at risk.” Prior to the court’s decision in the Clark case, she said, 272 domestic violence charges led in 42% of cases to an arrest. After Clark, there were 262 charges, and the percentage of arrest dropped to 12%. “It keeps the victims in danger, because they aren’t removed from the aggressor while law enforcement goes 45 minutes to an hour, in some places just to get a cell signal, trying to get a hold of prosecuting attorneys and judges," she said. "It leaves the victim incredibly exposed.”

The senators voting "yes" were Sens. Agenbroad, Buckner-Webb, Burgoyne, Burtenshaw, Cheatham, Hill, Lakey, Lee, Lodge, Martin, Nye, Patrick, Rice, Stennett, Ward-Engelking, Winder and Woodward.

Those voting "no" were Sens. Anthon, Bair, Bayer, Brackett, Crabtree, Den Hartog, Guthrie, Harris, Heider, Johnson, Lent, Mortimer, Souza, Thayn and Vick,

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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