Mandatory Arrest Must be Handcuffed, Group Says

Contact: Teri Stoddard, 301-801-0608,

WASHINGTON / January 31, 2011 –  Calling mandatory arrest “injurious” and “lethal,” Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) is today calling on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to institute a Defective Policy Recall to remove the practice of arresting persons accused of domestic violence without solid evidence or probable cause.

The SAVE letter to the Judiciary Committees cites a 2007 Harvard University study that found mandatory arrest increases partner homicides by nearly 60%. This translates into about 600 persons killed each year. According to Radha Iyengar, author of the Harvard study, the reason mandatory arrest backfires is that such policies “discourage victims from calling for help.”

An earlier study of mandatory arrest in Milwaukee concluded, “mandatory arrest prevents 2,504 acts of violence against primarily white women at the price of 5,409 acts of violence against primarily black women.”

“Although mandatory arrest makes for a good ‘get-tough-on-crime’ sound-bite, the bitter reality for victims is that it places their lives at risk,” explains Claudia Cornell, Psy.D., SAVE spokesperson. “Considering the heavy-handed practice is costing us two deaths a day, there’s no excuse to delay implementing alternatives to arrest for lower level aggression.”

Mandatory prosecution policies are also found to be harmful. According to research by Laura Dugan of the University of Maryland, such “no-drop” policies double white women’s risk of homicide. About two-thirds of prosecutors adhere to mandatory policies for allegations of domestic violence.

Each year the federal government spends $56 million under the Violence Against Women Act to promote mandatory arrest and no-drop prosecution. Even though the federal law removed its endorsement of mandatory arrest in 2005, none of the states with such laws have repealed these policies.

The over-criminalization of partner conflicts detracts from law enforcement efforts. Last November Adyan Sanchez of Bradenton, Fla. was arrested for tossing tamales at her boyfriend. In May, 73-year-old Theresa Collier of Largo, Fla. spent 24 hours in jail for slapping her foul-mouthed granddaughter on the face.

SAVE is a victim advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to domestic violence: .