Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. The Legal Environment


The Kansas City criminal justice response, in which domestic violence is typically a violation of a city ordinance and prosecuted in Municipal Court, differs from many other communities. Prior convictions in the Municipal Court cannot be used to "enhance" cases to a higher charge. In the past several years, the community has emphasized prosecuting domestic violence as a misdemeanor or felony, but the overwhelming majority of offenses continue to be prosecuted at the city level.

The statute for protection orders in Kansas City is fairly broad and allows the judge to include custody and child support as part of the order. A number of people viewed this as an invaluable tool in the community's response. Violations of an order are charged as a misdemeanor for the first offense and as a felony for the second offense. However, several people noted that because of this broad scope, there have been cases of a parent filing for a protection order simply to gain custody of a child or to obtain child support. As a result, protection orders have received a "bad rap" among some people in the community.