The 1994 and 2000 versions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) recommended that states implement mandatory arrest policies. The 2005 VAWA reauthorization backed off this position, recommending a “pro-arrest” policy instead. There were many good reasons for this decision:
- Research shows mandatory arrest increases the risk of subsequent victimization. For example, a Harvard University study found enactment of state mandatory arrest policies increased intimate partner homicides by 57%. There are 2 reasons for these higher homicide rates:
- Most victims do not want their partner to be arrested. Knowing that arrest is mandatory, they do not call the police for help.
- Mandatory arrest escalates partner tensions.
- Mandatory arrest gluts the criminal justice system with minor cases of partner abuse, diverting resources away from the victims who deserve priority.
- Mandatory arrest violates Fourth Amendment “probable-cause” requirements for arrest.
- Mandatory arrest removes discretionary power from law enforcement personnel.
- Mandatory arrest has a disproportionately harmful effect in African-American communities.
Despite these compelling reasons, none of the states with mandatory arrest on the books in 2005 have removed such policies as of 2010. These are the states that currently have mandatory arrest policies:
- Allegations of assault: AK, AZ, CO, CT, DC, IA, KS, LA, ME, MS, NV, NJ, NY, OH, OR, RI, SC, SD, UT, VA, and WA. (21 states)
- Allegations of violation of a restraining order: AK, CA, CO, DE, GA, HI, IA, KS, KY, ME, MD, MA, MN, MS, MO, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT,VA, WA, WV, WI (34 states)
SAVE Special Report:
Davis RL. Pro-Arrest and No Drop Prosecution Policies. National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center.
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