Domestic Violence Cases: What Research Shows About Arrest and Dual Arrest Rates

Published July 25, 2008

Chapter 1. Nationwide Dual Arrest Study: Analysis of National Incident-Based Reporting System Data

Section 1 — Findings From the Analysis of NIBRS Data

Analysis of NIBRS data revealed the following information on the police response to domestic and non-domestic violence incidents. The important findings are highlighted below.

How many incidents resulted in arrest?

  • Approximately 37 percent of all intimidation, simple assault and aggravated assault incidents resulted in arrest.
  • Arrest rates were higher when cases involved intimate partners (about 50 percent) and other situations of domestic violence (44.5 percent).

How many incidents resulted in dual arrest?

  • Slightly more than 1 percent of all cases resulted in dual arrest.
  • Dual arrest rates were higher when cases involved intimate partners (about 2 percent) and other situations of domestic violence (1.5 percent).

View exhibits showing arrest rates based on victim-offender relationship:

How did domestic violence legislation impact arrest practices?

  • Officers in states with mandatory and preferred arrest laws were more likely to make arrests than officers in states with discretionary arrest laws. This was true for all types of relationships.
  • Arrest rates varied among the jurisdictions within each state.
  • Arrest rates in intimate partner cases were 97 percent higher in states with mandatory arrest laws, compared to states with discretionary arrest laws.
  • Arrest rates in intimate partner cases were 177 percent higher in states with preferred arrest laws, compared to states with discretionary arrest laws.

What effect did domestic violence legislation have on dual arrest?

  • Mandatory, but not preferred, arrest laws increased the likelihood that police would arrest both parties.
  • Connecticut had the highest dual arrest rate. It has a mandatory arrest law and at the time of the study had no law stating that officers should arrest only the primary offender.

For more information, see Table 5.2 "HGLM Results Predicting Arrests" (pdf, 207 pages) and and Table 5.3 "HGLM Results Predicting Dual Arrest" (pdf, 207 pages) in "Explaining the Prevalence, Context, and Consequences of Dual Arrest in Intimate Partner Cases: Final Report."

How did victim, offender and incident characteristics affect arrest practices?

  • Men and women were equally likely to be arrested in incidents involving intimate partners or strangers as long as the circumstances were similar (e.g., equally serious offenses were committed).
  • Men were more likely to be arrested in domestic violence incidents that did not involve intimate partners and incidents involving acquaintances.
  • The more serious the incident, the more likely the offender would be arrested. Incidents of aggravated assault resulted in arrest more frequently than incidents of simple assault. Incidents of simple assault resulted in arrest more frequently than incidents of intimidation.
  • Arrest occurred more frequently in cases involving intimate partners if the offender was white. This effect was weaker in states with preferred arrest laws.
  • Cases involving intimate partners and acquaintances were more likely to result in arrest if the offender was 21 or older. In other domestic cases, arrest was more likely if the offender was under 21.
  • Offenses that occurred in residences were more likely to result in arrest than those that occurred in public.

How did victim, offender and incident characteristics impact dual arrest practices?

  • Dual arrest was more common in intimate partner cases that involved simple assault, as opposed to cases that involved aggravated assault or intimidation.
  • Dual arrest was more common in intimate partner cases if the primary offender was female and/or 21 or older.

For more information, see Table 5.2 "HGLM Results Predicting Arrests" (pdf, 207 pages) and and Table 5.3 "HGLM Results Predicting Dual Arrest" (pdf, 207 pages) in "Explaining the Prevalence, Context, and Consequences of Dual Arrest in Intimate Partner Cases: Final Report."

Did a person’s sexual orientation affect arrest rates?

  • Police were equally likely to make an arrest in incidents involving same-sex and heterosexual couples.
  • Dual arrest rates for same-sex couples were 10 times the rate observed in cases with male victims and female offenders and 30 times the rate observed in cases with female victims and male offenders.
  • Dual arrests involving lesbian couples (about 12 percent) occurred at twice the rate of those involving gay male couples (about 6 percent). Lesbian couples were most likely to be arrested in incidents that took place outside their homes.
  • Dual arrests were three times more likely in heterosexual incidents when the primary victim was male.
Date Created: July 25, 2008