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

Published July 25, 2008


Police are making more arrests in domestic violence incidents. When they cannot determine which person in an incident is at fault, or think both people are guilty, they sometimes arrest them both. This is called a dual arrest. Despite increased overall arrest rates, recent research by NIJ shows that dual arrest rates are low, and more than half of arrests made do not result in conviction. Dual arrest can be influenced by state laws and policies, the characteristics of the people involved in the incident, the victim's relationship with the offender, and whether the offender remained at the crime scene.

Past research suggested that the increased arrest rate was a result of state mandatory and preferred arrest laws that require or strongly recommend that officers make an arrest in a domestic violence incident. Some studies showed that officers were more likely to arrest women. However, these studies were limited by small sample sizes. Many examined only a single police department or several departments in one state.

Researchers funded by NIJ recently addressed the small sample size problem, completing a comprehensive, nationwide study. The study was conducted in two parts:

Part 1. Nationwide Study

In the first part of the study, researchers:

  • Examined how often domestic and non-domestic violence arrests occur nationwide.
  • Determined common characteristics of offenders (e.g., race, gender).
  • Assessed how state laws affect whether police make an arrest and whom they arrest.
  • Examined the factors that affect who is arrested.

Part 2. Detailed Examination of 25 Police Departments

In the second part of the study, researchers:

  • Examined case records from 25 police departments in 4 states.
  • Conducted a more detailed investigation of the factors that affect who is arrested in domestic violence cases.
  • Assessed whether police department policies on domestic violence are consistent with state laws on domestic violence.
  • Examined the factors that lead to conviction.
  • Investigated the factors associated with reoffending.
Date Created: July 25, 2008