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Trying to sort out domestic violence incidents can be notoriously tricky. Tensions are high (sometimes literally, involving drugs or alcohol), facts are few, and stories often conflict.
Rather than ask patrol officers to become Sherlock Holmes, many jurisdictions allowed "dual arrests" in incidents of domestic assault, where officers arrested both the perpetrator and the victim. But the Connecticut Legislature just passed a bill aimed at ending victims of domestic violence being arrested along with their abusers.
For years, police were accused of failing to properly respond to domestic violence allegations. Whether it was the inability to figure out the party responsible for the incident, or the thought that both parties would be treated equally and should be forced to "cool off," police began to arrest victims as well as aggressors about 30 years ago.
Victims' advocates have criticized dual arrests, claiming the targets of violence were further victimized by the arrest, facing humiliation, the cost of hiring a lawyer, and the prospect of a criminal record. "If victims get arrested, they can lose their house and lose their children," said Connecticut Representative William Tong, one of the bill's biggest backers. "The effects go far beyond the instance of abuse or battery."
Connecticut, whose dual arrest rate was almost 10 times the national average, will join Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York in limiting dual arrests, if the governor signs the bill as expected. Massachusetts urges officers to make an arrest in domestic violence cases, or do a mandatory write-up in dual arrest instances. Connecticut's new law will require officers to determine which party is the dominant aggressor, or who initiated the abuse, in domestic violence situations, and discourage officers from arresting victims just because they fight back during an assault.
If you have more questions about domestic violence laws, or have been arrested in a domestic incident, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
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