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Blowback from Mandatory Domestic Violence Arrests

Attempting to change deeply rooted social attitudes and behaviors through the legal system is never simple. There was a time when victims of domestic abuse, usually women, were blamed for causing the violence. Police often sided with the perpetrator. Advocates for domestic violence victims worked diligently to change the way these cases are handled. Currently, many states require a mandatory arrest if there is any evidence that someone in a household has been injured or even threatened with injury — even if the alleged victim protests or refuses to bring charges. Under the preferred arrest policy in Ohio, police officers must determine whether there are “reasonable grounds” that warrant a domestic abuse arrest.

Although they were made with the best of intentions, these stricter policies may be dangerous for the people who need the most protection. A recent study found that intimate homicide rates were 50 percent higher in states with mandatory domestic violence arrest policies. This sounds totally counter-intuitive, but abuse victims in these states may not dial 911 in a crisis. Victims who want the abuse stopped do not necessarily want their partner to end up in jail, especially if they are financially and emotionally dependent on them.

Strict domestic violence policies can also be dangerous for those who are wrongfully charged with abuse. Physical, emotional or sexual violence should not be tolerated, but the broad definitions of abuse in the Ohio legal code open the door to misinterpreting non-violent situations as abuse. Ohio law enforcement make subjective decisions in tense, volatile situations, and they do not always get it right. That is why it is important to have a criminal defense attorney on your side, representing your side of the story.

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