Even though there has been improvement in spreading awareness about this social injustice, much more work must be done to put an end to domestic violence to protect families around the world....
It is important to reiterate that there are benefits to mandatory arrest. For example, a mandatory arrest policy takes the decision out of the hands of the victims, and therefore the batterer should not hold the victim responsible for his or her prosecution. In addition, mandatory arrest policies send a punitive message to batterers and to the community that the criminal justice system responds to the crime of domestic violence in a harsh manner and holds offenders accountable. However, the unintended consequences of mandatory arrest must also be weighed when determining the best policy approach to this crime.
Tsai (2000) did a multisite study to evaluate domestic violence court models. One of the specialized courts Tsai evaluated is located in Quincy, Massachusetts, an urban community outside of Boston. The Quincy court coordinates an integrated system of judges, clerks, law enforcement, social services, and local agencies to provide a comprehensive community response. Tsai concluded that the primary effectiveness of Quincy’s coordinated system stems from its ability to increase the victim’s sense of empowerment through an adequate provision of legal and community resources. Due to its ability to provide victims with the services they need to maintain their safety and successfully escape their abusive situation, Quincy’s domestic violence court is often used as a model for other cities.
Similar to drug courts, there is no particular model that has been determined to be the “example court” model. What has emerged over the years, however, are common programming aspects that are usually indicative of a more progressive specialized court. Examples of these include case assignment, specialized judges, screening for related cases, intake units and case processing, service provision, and case monitoring. Ideally, cases are assigned to specific judges who specialize in domestic violence cases. The screening process determines whether victims or families are involved in other open cases or have prior involvement in domestic violence court. Often, however, screening is hampered by poor technology or limited information exchange. Thus, current court models seek to simplify the screening process and open information channels in order to obtain documents pertaining to specific victims or families. Because victims and offenders require community resources that apply specifically to their situation, domestic violence courts and community programs must be able to work together in order to provide needed services. Efficient domestic violence courts also include case monitoring. Effective coordination of services among the legal system, treatment providers, and victim advocates is enhanced through frequent meetings to exchange thoughts and ideas for improvements (Mazur & Aldrich, 2003). Overall, a common theme among successful models for domestic violence courts seeks to meet two main goals: victim safety and offender accountability.
Although domestic abuse is a crime, the traditional court system is ill-equipped to deal with all of the complexities involved in domestic violence cases. Because these cases typically include extenuating concerns pertaining to children, property, finances, and victim safety, they necessitate legal services and procedures that are different from those in regular courts. As attention has turned to the unique circumstances of domestic violence cases, specialized courts have emerged in the United States to meet victims’ needs.
The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment (MDVE) was conducted to determine whether arresting offenders for domestic violence significantly reduced subsequent arrests (Sherman & Berk, 1984). Many in the legislative community and elsewhere interpreted the MDVE results, which suggested that mandatory arrest could reduce future arrests, as a strong support for mandatory arrest laws for the law enforcement response to domestic violence. In fact, most states soon passed pro/mandatory arrest statutes, and law enforcement agencies implemented pro/mandatory arrest policies for cases of domestic violence. It did not take long, however, for the practice community to realize that there were going to be several unintended consequences of mandatory arrest policies. For example, as a result of mandatory arrest policies, female arrests for domestic violence have increased dramatically because often, officers who respond to domestic violence calls are unsure which partner is the primary aggressor. If the perpetrator has wounds as well as the victim, the officer is often unable to conclusively identify whose wounds are offensive and whose are defensive. Having not witnessed the altercation, the responding officer has no choice but to arrest both parties (Parmley, 2004). Some feel that as a result of the increased risk for arrest, victims of domestic violence may be less likely to contact the police, thus risking their safety and further enabling the abuser.
As the recent changes in domestic violence law have benefited the domestic violence movement to a great extent, advances within law enforcement policies and enhanced prosecutor training have also been making a positive difference. Across the nation, entry-level training for police in most states now includes a domestic violence requirement, with a few states including in-service instruction as well as entry-level training. Also, some states have begun to require knowledge of written policies and procedures as they pertain to domestic violence as a component of law enforcement training (N. Miller, 2004). While the current advancements in police training have yet to reach consistency across the nation, they do provide a stark contrast to such training in the past. For example, police training as it existed in Chicago 40 years ago provided no training for domestic violence; however, it did include 1 hour of instruction on dealing with disturbances in general, out of a total 490 hours of training (Parnas, 1967). Prosecutor training for domestic violence cases has seen a slight improvement, but it lags behind law enforcement. To date, a mere four states require training for prosecutors in handling domestic violence cases; three others offer domestic violence instruction for prosecutors, but not as a requirement (N. Miller, 2004).
The most obvious indicator of the way a particular state legislates domestic violence offenses can be seen in whether it categorizes the offense as a misdemeanor or a felony. At the time this research paper was written, 11 states have yet to adopt laws explicitly dealing with domestic violence. Within the other 39 states, the first domestic violence offense can be treated as a felony in 9 states; the second domestic violence offense is treated as a felony in 7 states; and in 18 states, the third domestic violence offense is a felony. In addition, 13 states have enhanced penalties for violations of domestic violence law committed in the presence of a minor, and 3 states have instituted enhanced penalties for the assault of a pregnant woman (N. Miller, 2004).
There are many different forms of domestic violence and abuse, and unfortunately some relationship breakdowns are affected by this issue. At Karen L Haga & Associates we can assist in a number of ways. For example, we can help you to apply for an Apprehended Violence Order that prohibits your ex partner or spouse from coming within a certain distance of you or your family if you are the victim of domestic violence. We can also recommend a number of support services and temporary refuges that may be able to help you.
Others point to the more hidden consequences that mandatory arrests pose in regard to issues of race and class. As previously discussed, dual arrest rates surged as a result of mandatory arrest policies. For example, the rates of female arrests for domestic violence rose from 12.9% to 21% in the state of Maryland; from 6% to 16.5% in a California study; and shockingly, in the city of Sacramento alone, there was a 91% increase in women arrested, and a 7% decrease in men arrested (Chesney-Lind, 2002). Concurrently, African American females were arrested at almost 3 times the rate of Caucasian women in 1998 (Chesney-Lind, 2002).
The criminal justice system has made substantial improvements and changes pertaining to domestic violence offenses over the past 15 years. According to Miller (2004), some of the more noteworthy changes include the adoption of anti-stalking laws in every state, the repeal or limitation of states’ spousal exemption laws in rape cases, and the passage of new domestic violence laws that provide unique penalties in family-related assault cases. In addition, every U.S. state now allows law enforcement personnel to make an arrest without a warrant for domestic violence cases, and penalties that offenders’ have to pay have been increased for violations of protective orders. In many states, reduced court fees and protection for nonmarried couples have made court protection more accessible. While each of these changes is a step in the right direction, domestic violence legislation remains inconsistent across the nation. Significant variations exist from state to state in the degree to which new laws have been adopted and in prosecution rates for offenders.