Domestic Violence

Violence and the Law - Criminal

Violence and the Law - Criminal

Historically, the entire criminal justice system was content to allow domestic violence problems to be labeled "domestic disputes" and to be handled in the household, without getting the criminal justice system involved.

Today, the mindset has changed significantly. While pockets of this "old line thinking" still remain, every state legislation has passed serioous domestic violence laws and procedures and most courts vigorously enforce these laws. Police Departments play a significant enforcement role as well, often refusing to allow victims to "drop the charges" of violence a couple of the days after the incident(s) occur.

All of this is due to the awareness of the problem of domestic violence created in the last decade. What changes have really occurred and what do they mean for the victims?

Significant Changes

Police Departments.Today, the attitude of most police departments is no longer "let it remain in the home." Rather, as a general rule the attitude of many police departments today is that an offender must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Police departments now have the benefit of many state laws that protect victims of domestic violence.

These include special statutes prohibiting domestic violence and criminal penalties for violating these statutes. Different actions are prohibited by various statutes, and these crimes can now be either felonies or misdemeanors, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the specific language of the state law.

Legislatures have also given courts a stronger role in these actions, with the authority to grant "protective orders" or "restraining orders" against abusive partners. The police department now has a mandate from many state legislatures to ensure that these protective orders issued by judges are enforced.

Police Departments now routinely treat these crimes as "mandatory arrest" crimes, and regardless of whether there is an actual witness to the crime, the partner can be jailed. The police officer must witness some evidence of abuse, and under many state laws this is enough to warrant arrest and jail.

Violence and the Law - Criminal
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