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Utah County considers new court for domestic violence cases

PROVO, Utah — Utah County prosecutors are looking into partnering with area justice courts to create a specialized court for domestic violence cases — a first of its kind in the state.

The new court would be similar to other specialized courts that exist for veterans, drugs and mental health, aiming to better rehabilitate offenders and reduce recidivism, the Daily Herald reported last week.

The county south of Salt Lake City doesn’t handle enough domestic violence cases to justify a separate court, so it would need to partner with cities such as Orem and Provo to make the new court viable, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said.

“What we are trying to do is figure out how to make it work in Utah County Justice Court,” Leavitt said. “The commissioners are supportive, my office is supportive, the justice court is supportive. We just have to see if it’s feasible economically.”

The domestic violence court would work to streamline resources to process cases more efficiently and to address the core actions behind the crime, said Rebecca McNairy, a graduate student at Utah Valley University who worked with the attorney’s office to research domestic violence courts. The court would only handle low-level misdemeanors, McNairy said. Violent felony offenses would still go through district court.

“It’s a court created not just to send people to jail for crimes committed, but to rehabilitate them so they can actually go back into society,” McNairy said.

Prosecutors do not have a timeline yet for when a domestic violence court could be created, said Chad Grunander, of the county attorney’s office.

“We’re in the thick of it right now, trying to make it work,” Grunander said.

The state does not currently have any domestic violence courts, Utah courts spokesman Geoff Fattah said.

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