Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 6. Prosecution Responses

Section  13 โ€” What kind of dispositions do most suspects receive?

Just as prosecution rates vary widely, so does sentencing of domestic violence perpetrators, even though the vast majority of domestic violence defendants are prosecuted for misdemeanor assaults. Disparate studies from various jurisdictions illustrate some of the variety of sentences imposed.

In Quincy, where almost three-quarters of the suspects were charged with some form of assault and/or battery, about one-quarter of the defendants were diverted after a plea to sufficient facts, another quarter were sentenced to probation, and a little over one-tenth were imprisoned. The remainder defaulted or had their cases filed. [23] In Ohio, of those found guilty, almost 70 percent were incarcerated. The largest number were incarcerated between 30 and 45 days, but 18.8 percent were incarcerated for 150 to 180 days. A little more than 60 percent of those found guilty were placed under probation supervision. The largest number of defendants (30.8 percent) were incarcerated between 360 and 499 days. [11] In the Brooklyn misdemeanor domestic violence court study of 9,157 cases in 2002, of those defendants pleading or found guilty, 51 percent received a conditional discharge, 35 percent received a jail sentence, 7 percent received probation, 5 percent were ordered to complete community service and 1 percent were fined. [31] In Milwaukee, in the mid-1990s, out of 669 sample cases prosecutors accepted for prosecution, 30 percent were convicted with a jail sentence, and a little less than one-quarter were sentenced to probation. [39] In Chicago, a little less than one-third of the defendants were given conditional discharges, 24 percent were placed on probation or under court supervision and 23 percent received a jail sentence (including time served pending trial). [107] A study of more than 1,000 domestic violence arrests across three states (Connecticut, Idaho and Virginia) found that, of those convicted, three-quarters were incarcerated, sentenced to probation and/or fined. A little less than half (46.7 percent) were ordered into either anger management or batterer programs. [117]

A study of three domestic violence courts with specialized prosecutors in three different states found augmented probation conditions as compared to jurisdictions without domestic violence specialization. Augmented conditions included drug and alcohol abstinence and testing, batterer intervention programs that lasted longer and were more expensive, more no-contact protective orders, attendance at fatherhood programs or women's groups for female offenders, more mental health evaluations, mandatory employment and restrictions on weapons. [103]

Studies of four jurisdictions with specialized prosecution programs in as many states document that incarceration rates ranged from 20 to 76 percent. Most offenders were placed on probation and had to agree to no victim contact and attendance in a batterer treatment program. [196]

In at least one state, imprisonment of domestic violence felons has mushroomed over the last decade and a half. The number of domestic violence offenders sent to Ohio prisons increased nine-fold between 1991 and 2005. [225]

Performance Measure: By statute, Calif. Penal Code ยง1203.097, California batterers must be sentenced to three years probation; criminal protective orders must be incorporated to protect victims from further violence, threats, stalking, sexual abuse and harassment; the defendant must complete a batterer program of no less than one year, make a minimum $200 payment, perform a specified amount of community service, attend a substance abuse treatment program as needed, pay restitution and, in lieu of a fine, pay up to $5,000 to a battered women's shelter.

Date Created: June 5, 2009