When the police respond to a report of a domestic disturbance, how they handle the situation is determined by a number of factors. Of course, the behavior of and allegations made by the parties involved will contribute to the officer’s decision on whether or not to make an arrest. The applicable laws of the state in question also matter and can vary widely from one state to the next.
In Connecticut, an officer is essentially required to make an arrest when responding to a domestic violence call if he or she has probable cause to believe that violent incident took place. Unfortunately, however, the wording of the law—which went into effect in 1987—has had the unintended consequence of raising the rate of dual arrests to more than double the national average. In recent weeks, victims’ advocate groups have renewed calls to amend the state’s laws so that victims will no longer need to fear being arrested when they call the police for help.
As it pertains to domestic violence cases, a dual arrest occurs when the police respond to a domestic disturbance call and both parties are arrested. In Connecticut, dual arrests are made in about 20 percent of cases in which at least one arrest is made. The national average is about 7.3 percent.
Experts and domestic violence advocacy leaders point out that this is not an issue of overzealous police work. It is more of a problem with the law itself. According to the existing law, if a police officer determines that a “family violence crime has been committed,” he or she “shall arrest the person or persons suspected of its commission.” This means that if the officer believes that both parties engaged in violent behavior against each other, he or she must arrest both individuals. If the officer believes that a party was acting in self-defense, the officer has the discretion to forgo an arrest.
The difference between Connecticut’s laws and those in other states is that a large number of other states allow the officer to determine which party was the primary aggressor and to arrest only that individual. Even other states with “shall arrest” laws typically grant such discretion to the responding officer.
At first glance, a dual arrest in a domestic violence situation may seem to be addressing concerns head-on. The reality, however, is that many victims—especially repeat victims—know that if they call the police to report an incident, there is a very real danger that they could be arrested as well.
To address this problem, Karen Jarmoc, the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), is pushing state lawmakers to take action. Jarmoc is encouraging legislators to enact a proposed law that will include “dominant aggressor” language and give the police the authority to decide who is the primary aggressor in a domestic violence situation. Police and other law enforcement officers would be required to undergo additional training to handle such calls and to identify primary aggressors.
The proposed measure is still being drafted.
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If you have been arrested as the result of making a domestic violence report, contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney to get the help you need. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation with Woolf Law Firm, LLC today. We will work hard to protect your rights and minimize the effect on your future.