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

Published June 2009

Chapter 7. Judicial Responses

Section 7 — Can "first" offenders be safely diverted or discharged?

The few studies that have examined reabuse among diverted or discharged abusers have consistently found that a steady minority continued to reabuse, notwithstanding no or minimal prior records. In the Quincy, Mass., arrest study, for example, a quarter of the arrested defendants were continued, without a finding to be dismissed, if they remained arrest free for six months to a year, a disposition reserved for first or lesser defendants. A quarter were arrested or had new protective orders taken out against them within two years of their study arrest. Although this reabuse rate was still half that of defendants with more substantial prior criminal histories, it was substantially higher than prosecutors and judges had anticipated. [138] Similarly, a little over a quarter of the abusers (27.5 percent) given a conditional discharge in Cook County violated the conditional discharge. [107] While those placed on probation in Rhode Island with guilty findings was higher than those placed on probation without guilty findings, the rearrest rate for domestic violence over one year was still 35 percent. [141]

Implications for Judges

Judges cannot assume that defendants with no or limited prior records for domestic violence can be diverted pre-adjudication or given conditional discharges without consistently compromising safety for at least a quarter of their victims. (Research basis: Limited site studies as well as broader research on offender risk previously cited.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009