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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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