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Bill would allow domestic violence recordings as evidence

by Associated Press
| January 12, 2021 2:10 PM

HELENA (AP) — Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow victims of domestic violence to secretly record phone calls or interactions with the perpetrator and use the recordings as evidence in court.

Under Montana law, it is illegal to record a conversation without the knowledge of all the parties involved. That means such recordings can't be used as evidence in prosecuting domestic violence and other criminal cases.

The bill, by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, would create an exception to the privacy law to allow recording of physical or mental abuse against the person or a member of their family.

"It would allow victims to click record on their cellphones to provide evidence of the crime or abuse," Dunwell told the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The committee did not vote on the bill.

Domestic violence survivors and retired Supreme Court Justice James Nelson testified in support of the bill. Opponents argued the bill, as written, was too broad in violating privacy.

"You gotta ask yourselves one question," said Missoula Police Det. Nathan Griesse: "Should abusers have an expectation of privacy when they're physically assaulting their partner or family member? Based on my training and experience, my answer is no."