Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 6. Prosecution Responses

Section  15 — When does sentencing of domestic violence defendants not necessarily prevent reabuse

Some dispositional studies suggest that domestic violence sentencing patterns differ from standard sentencing patterns. Surprisingly, domestic violence sentences often do not reflect defendants' prior criminal history, suggesting that prosecutors and/or judges may disregard prior records that are not domestic-violence-related. In the Ohio study, for example, researchers found no correlation between offenders' prior criminal histories and sentence severity. [11] Similarly, the Toledo, Ohio, study found that defendants with prior felony convictions were the least likely to be prosecuted and sentenced. [216] In contrast, in both Quincy, Mass., and Rhode Island, prior criminal history was significantly associated with severity of sentences. [23, 141] Sentences that do not reflect a defendant's prior criminal history (and prior sentences) may suggest to the defendant that domestic violence offenses are not taken as seriously as other offenses.

Implications for Prosecutors

Domestic violence sentencing should reflect defendants' prior criminal histories as well as abuse histories, as both indicate risk of reabuse as well as general criminality. (Research basis: Disparate sentencing studies found inconsistent variables, including consideration of prior records.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009