Domestic Violence Cases: What Research Shows About Arrest and Dual Arrest Rates

Published July 25, 2008

Chapter 2. In-Depth Survey of Police Departments

Section 1 — Findings From the In-Depth Survey

In the second part of the study, researchers:

  • Surveyed police departments to examine whether jurisdiction policies correspond with state law.
  • Assessed factors at an incident that may have affected whether or not police made an arrest (e.g., was the offender on scene when the police arrived, were alcohol or drugs involved, were children present).
  • Assessed whether the criminal histories of victims and offenders affect arrests, prosecutions and convictions.

The major findings are highlighted below.

How did department arrest policies comply with state arrest laws?

  • The vast majority of police departments in states with mandatory arrest laws had mandatory arrest policies.
  • Some police departments in states with preferred or discretionary arrest laws had mandatory arrest policies.
  • Jurisdictions with primary aggressor department policies or state laws reported one-fourth the number of dual arrests as jurisdictions without such policies or laws. Primary aggressor laws state that officers should identify and arrest only the main offender in an incident.

For more information, see Table 8.7 "Arrest Proportions ANOVA Comparing State Primary Aggressor by Agency Primary Aggressor Instruction" (pdf, 207 pages) from "Explaining the Prevalence, Context, and Consequences of Dual Arrest in Intimate Partner Cases: Final Report."

What factors affected arrest rates?

  • Arrest rates increased when:
    • A victim was injured (about 2 times more likely).
    • A minor was present at the incident (1.2 times more likely).
    • An offender stayed at the incident (about 4 times more likely).
    • The incident involved intimate partners as opposed to other domestic relationships (1.3 times more likely). (Other domestic relationships include, for example, brother-sister, father-son.)
    • The incident took place in one of the larger cities surveyed (about 1.5 times more likely).
  • A person’s gender did not affect whether he or she would be arrested.
  • Arrest rates increased when an offender stayed at the incident. This explains the finding from the first part of the study that suggests that arrest occurred more frequently when the offense was committed in a residence. Offenders who committed their offenses in a residence were more likely to remain on the scene than offenders who committed their offenses elsewhere.

What factors affected dual arrest rates?

Dual arrest rates increased when:

  • The incident involved violence between intimate partners (about 2 times more likely).
  • The offender stayed at the scene of a crime (20 times more likely).
  • The incident took place in one of the larger cities surveyed (3 times more likely).

Dual arrest rates decreased when:

  • The officers knew the offender had been violent in the past (40 percent less likely). In these instances, officers were more likely to arrest a single offender.
  • The offender was white (40 percent less likely).
  • The primary offender was male (60 percent less likely).

Did arrests lead to convictions? What circumstances surrounding an arrest affected conviction rates?

  • Less than half (about 43 percent) of arrests or citations resulted in convictions.
  • Arrests were 60 percent less likely to result in conviction in states with mandatory arrest laws versus states with discretionary arrest laws.
  • Arrests were 30 percent less likely to result in conviction if the defendant was white.
  • Arrests in intimate partner violence cases were about 70 percent more likely to result in conviction than arrests in other domestic violence cases.
  • Arrests were about 1.5 times more likely to result in conviction if the victim was injured.
  • Arrests were about 2.5 times more likely to result in conviction if the offender had previously been arrested.
  • A person’s gender did not influence whether he or she would be convicted.
  • A victim or offender’s use of alcohol did not affect whether the arrestee would be convicted.

Did arrestees reoffend?

  • If an offender had a prior arrest record, he or she was seven times more likely to be rearrested than an offender with no prior arrest record.
  • Men were twice as likely as women to reoffend.
  • If an offender used alcohol or drugs in the initial incident, he or she was about 25 percent more likely to be arrested again.
  • Arrest and conviction for the initial offense did not affect whether an offender would be arrested again.
Date Created: July 25, 2008