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PR: VAWA Must Stop Funding Lethal Mandatory Arrest Policies

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Contact: Teri Stoddard
Telephone: 301-801-0608

VAWA Must Stop Funding Lethal Mandatory Arrest Policies

Washington, DC/May 8, 2012 — States that enacted mandatory arrest policies saw a 60 percent increase in intimate partner homicides, according to a Harvard U. study. Now, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) is calling on lawmakers involved in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to halt funding for such lethal policies.

Beginning in 1994, VAWA pushed states to change their domestic violence arrest standards from probable cause to the more aggressive mandatory arrest policy. Under mandatory arrest, the accused person is taken away in handcuffs if the police are called, even in the absence of evidence of physical violence.

VAWA’s 2005 reauthorization did away with the mandatory arrest language, but states continued to enforce these harmful policies. SAVE insists that the House of Representatives insert language in its version of VAWA that would stop taxpayer funding of arrest without probable cause.

Victims usually just want an officer’s help to defuse the situation, and are less likely to call for help if it will mean an arrest. So police aren’t there when they are needed most. Harvard researcher Dr. Radha Iyengar explains, “victims don’t want to call the police after the laws are implemented.”

SAVE’s report further details how the spike in homicides—more than 600 intimate partner murders a year—can be attributed to the mandatory arrest policies.

Besides loss of life, VAWA’s mandatory arrest policies have resulted in a civil rights fiasco by compromising the due process rights of the accused. Nearly 70 percent of those arrested are never convicted of the alleged offense—a sign that Fourth Amendment probable cause protections often are not met.

Said SAVE spokesman Philip W. Cook: “The needless loss of 600 lives each year is a stinging indictment of mandatory arrest. Amazingly, Congress continues to dole out $30 million in taxpayer money each year to support this blinkered policy.”

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a victim-advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to partner violence: