Bill would allow domestic violence recordings as evidence

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.”

n n n House Labor Committee hears whistleblower bill

Members of the House Business and Labor Committee heard testimony Monday about a bill that would protect and reward whistleblowers who report possible securities fraud.

The Whistleblower Award and Protection Act would help people bring information to the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance.

Lynne Egan is the Deputy Commissioner of Securities and Insurance at the Montana State Auditor’s office. She said the bill could help people report fraud to the state.

“It is often hard for individuals within the industry to come forward for fear of financial hardship or being blackballed,” Egan said. “The proposed Whistleblower Award and Protection Act would allow us to provide an incentive for those who help us take down bad actors.”

The act would award up to 30 percent of fines and fees involved in the case to the whistleblower. Restitutions would not be affected. It also provides protection for the whistleblower by ensuring they cannot be fired or harassed as a result of their actions.

Chairman Mark Noland, R-Bigfork, said the committee will likely vote on the bill Friday.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.