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

Published July 25, 2008

Chapter 3. What Does This Study Tell Us About Arrests and Dual Arrests in Domestic Violence Cases?

Current state arrest laws have led to a more severe and consistent police response to domestic violence. This study’s findings can help researchers understand the effects of domestic violence policies and design a plan for the future.

Discussing the Study

The study’s findings provoke a variety of questions and topics for discussion. A number of relevant discussions are presented below. All answers represent the opinions and analysis of the researchers who conducted the study.

On Arrest

Question: Does gender affect arrest rates in intimate partner violence cases?
Answer: No. Men and women were equally likely to be arrested as long as both committed equally serious offenses.

On Dual Arrest

Question: Do mandatory arrest laws increase dual arrest rates?
Answer:  Yes, though the overall dual arrest rate still remains low. If states want to increase arrest rates and avoid making unnecessary dual arrests, they should consider passing a preferred arrest law and enhancing police departments’ policies and training.

Question: Why do mandatory arrest laws increase dual arrest rates?
Answer: Officers are required to make an arrest and consider discretion inappropriate. They may choose to arrest both people involved in an incident and let a court decide who is guilty.

Question: How does gender affect dual arrest rates in intimate partner violence cases?
Answer:  In situations with a female offender, officers are three times more likely to make a dual arrest. Additionally, officers are more likely to make a dual arrest when the incident involves a homosexual couple. These rates may be related to sex role stereotyping.

On Conviction

Question: Why did less than half of the cases that reached a prosecutor’s office result in conviction?
Answer: With the increasing number of arrests in domestic violence cases, prosecutors may be forced to choose cases with the best chance of conviction—cases that involve injuries or offenders with a criminal history are more likely to be convicted.

Question: If the police were more likely to make arrests when children were present at an incident, why did this not lead to higher rates of conviction?
Answer: Police are aware that witnessing violence can harm child development, and make an arrest. However, a child’s presence at the incident may not factor prominently in courtroom prosecution.

Question: If police were more likely to arrest white offenders than minorities, why were white offenders convicted less frequently than minority offenders?
Answer: Law enforcement officers may consider violence among minorities more common than violence among white populations, which may lead to fewer minority arrests. Cases involving minorities may then constitute the stronger cases for prosecution.  However, other factors such as social status, type of legal presentation, victim willingness to proceed and access to diversion programs may explain why whites are convicted less frequently.  

On Improving Police Response

Question: How can we make it more likely that offenders who have left the scene will be arrested? 
Answer: Officers could increase arrest rates by conducting more thorough follow-up investigations to find offenders who have left the crime scene.

Question: How can we lower dual arrest rates?
Answer:  Dual arrest rates are highest in states with mandatory arrest laws and no policies that require officers to arrest only the primary offender. These policies are called primary aggressor provisions. States who wish to lower dual arrest rates may wish to institute primary aggressor laws. Police departments may wish to institute primary aggressor policies.

Question: How can we lower dual arrest rates in incidents involving same sex couples?
Answer: By training officers to better identify abuse in same sex relationships. It is important that both policies and training address potential sex role stereotyping and the significance of victimization for both genders.

Date Created: July 25, 2008