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

Published June 2009

Chapter 7. Judicial Responses

Section 2 — Should judges follow victim preferences when determining sentences

Although victim perceptions of the dangerousness of suspects have been found to be good predictors of subsequent revictimization [23, 112, 113], victim preferences on how the case should be disposed are not good predictors. The victims in the Quincy, Mass., study who wanted the charges dropped were as likely to be revictimized (51 percent vs. 48 percent after one year) as those who did not want the charges dropped. [23] Similarly, studies in New York found that victim cooperation with prosecutors did not predict recidivism. In other words, when judges imposed sentences to which victims objected, these victims were no more or less likely to be revictimized than victims who wanted their abusers to be prosecuted and sentenced. [145]

Implications for Judges

Although judges should be open to victims' views, they should explain to victims (and, as important, to defendants) that the court is obligated to determine sentences as it deems best, with or without victims' agreement. (Research basis: Only one study directly compared victim prosecution wishes and subsequent reabuse.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009