In eras past, police departments and prosecutors looked the other way when there was violence between spouses or significant others. But as public awareness grew, so did law and policy.
Today, many states make arrest mandatory where there are allegations of domestic violence. Take New Jersey, for example—the state in which NFL player Ray Rice was videotaped striking his fiancée. In that state, arrest is mandatory when:
- someone claims to be a victim of domestic violence
- the responding officer has probable cause to believe that such violence has occurred, and
- there are signs of injury or it appears that a weapon was involved.
(For more detail on the New Jersey law and statutes in other states, see this coverage of state-by-state domestic violence laws.)
In 2008, the National Institute of Justice published a report called Domestic Violence Cases: What Research Shows About Arrest and Dual Arrest Rates. In part, the report explains three different approaches by states to domestic violence cases: making arrest mandatory or preferred, or leaving it to the officer’s discretion. (It also explains that local policy might make arrest mandatory even though state law says only that it’s preferred.