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Hartford domestic assault defense lawyerThe coronavirus pandemic has caused people and families throughout the United States to fear for their safety. While steps can be taken to minimize the risks of infection, these measures have led to a variety of other concerns, including increases in the number of reports of domestic violence

The difficulties that families are currently experiencing has led to increased stress in many households, as well as concerns about mental health and substance abuse. Couples who have struggled with relationship issues may have seen these problems become even worse due to being required to remain in close quarters together. Stress about financial problems caused by the loss of a job or difficulties addressing children’s educational needs while they are learning from home may also contribute to the breakdown of relationships between family members. 

These concerns may cause a tense situation to boil over, potentially leading to accusations of domestic assault or abuse. Advocates have reported that in recent months, calls reporting domestic violence have increased by 70%, and shelters for victims are currently at 150% capacity. This trend is expected to increase over the holiday season and during the new year. Those who are facing allegations of domestic violence will want to work with a criminal defense attorney to determine how they can address criminal charges, defend against a conviction, and preserve their family relationships and reputation.

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Hartford domestic violence defense attorneySince late March, the state of Connecticut, much like the rest of the country, has been in lockdown. The state’s stay-at-home order has prevented certain non-essential businesses from conducting in-person operations, and people may only leave their homes to perform essential tasks. For some families, this order has kept them safe. However, for families where domestic violence is a concern, this order may not have had the same effect. Connecticut domestic violence activists are concerned that victims are unable to receive the services they need, and those who are seeking protection or who need to defend against accusations of domestic violence may face difficulties in having their cases heard in court.

Has the Pandemic Increased Domestic Violence Calls?

According to the president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), calls to police regarding domestic violence increased by around 52 percent in early April of this year when compared to a similar period of time in early March. However, some law enforcement reports show that family violence calls decreased in the first two weeks of April 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. Municipal and state police reported that there were 495 family violence calls placed in the first half of April, compared to 519 calls placed during the same period in 2019.

The pandemic has also affected the services available for victims. The state of Connecticut only has 227 licensed emergency beds for domestic violence victims, and these are now almost completely full. Thanks to a $15,000 grant from an anonymous donor, hotel rooms have been provided for an additional 29 victims.

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East Hartford family violence defense attorneyDomestic violence is a serious social issue that has received increased attention in recent years. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million people become victims of some form of domestic violence each year in the United States. Because of these harrowing statistics, an increased focus has been placed on prosecuting domestic violence offenders. While this is a valiant effort by lawmakers and law enforcement officials, those who face accusations of domestic violence can have a difficult time proving their innocence and dealing with the effects that these charges can have on their relationships, family life, and reputation. If you have been accused of domestic violence, there are a few things you should do to help your situation.

Connecticut Domestic Violence Laws

In Connecticut, domestic violence is referred to as “family violence.” Connecticut statutes define family violence as any act between family or household members that results in physical injury or creates reasonable fear that physical injury will occur. Family and household members can include:

  • People who are related by blood
  • People who are married or used to be married
  • Roommates or former roommates
  • People who are currently dating or used to date
  • People who have a child in common

The state of Connecticut does not charge domestic violence as an offense separate from other criminal charges. Rather, a violent crime that is perpetrated against a family or household member can be denoted as a family violence offense. An alleged offender will be subject to the sentencing guidelines for the specific crime they are charged with, such as:

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dual arrest, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyWhen 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.

The Problem

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Mandatory Arrest Law Complicates Domestic Violence Calls, Connecticut Criminal Defense AttorneyDespite aggressive, nationwide awareness campaigns over the last several decades, domestic violence and intimate partner abuse continue to plague families throughout Connecticut and across the country. Tragically, millions of people suffer abuse at the hands of a spouse, partner, or another family member each year, and an alarmingly large number of victims are hesitant or simply refuse to seek help. Sometimes, however, a domestic violence victim will have the courage to call the police, hoping that law enforcement will help resolve the problem at hand. The police arrive and arrest the alleged abuser—then proceed to arrest the victim as well. This is known as a “dual arrest,” and the rate of such arrests in Connecticut is nearly 10 times higher than the national average.

The Problems of Mandatory Arrest

Connecticut is one of 22 states with laws that require police to make an arrest when they respond to a domestic violence call. In theory, mandatory arrest laws are intended to protect victims of abuse by eliminating the need for officers to make a judgment call on the scene. But in practice, such laws have unintended consequences. Studies suggest that many victims fear additional retaliation from their abusers following a call to a police and mandatory arrest, which means mandatory arrest laws may actually be reducing calls for help.

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