Domestic Violence Laws: Who is it protecting?

Every single week, our attorneys at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. speak with new clients who recently got arrested for allegedly committing an act of domestic violence against another, whether the relationship at issue is an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife, or even parent/child.

However the arrest is usually based upon facts never found in an officers investigation. The reason is sad but simple, POLICE OFFICER(S) RARELY EVEN CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES! A pathetic reality to a rather disturbing trend in our criminal justice system.

The truth of the matter is that police officers care more about being publicly exposed for what they don't do than for what they do do. The example I usually discuss with domestic violence clients is that if a police officer has to respond to a domestic violence dispute, an arrest will always be made, regardless of what evidence is found in what typically is a very quick investigation. These investigations usually consist of no more than speaking to the parties and arresting the one they believe the least.

What the police officers do not consider is that they are quite often arresting a person who may have done absolutely nothing wrong and because of the arrest, will be scarred for life with a criminal record as a result of the officer's failure to conduct a thorough investigation.

Arrests are only supposed to be made when there are enough facts that rise to the level of what we lawyers call "Probable Cause." This means that there has to be some credible evidence for a police officer to believe that a crime was committed and that the person they arrest committed that crime. Unfortunately, most arrests result after a police officer speaks to an alleged victim with no consideration as to the motivations behind such statements. The officer usually will use that statement alone as evidence to justify the arrest for domestic violence. In cases, where there are other factors, the officer will often use a victim's injury against the defendant but not use the lack of one to his benefit. The officer will speak to witnesses who support the victim's story but ignore witnesses who support the defendant's side.

Which leads me to an important question. Is it the limited evidence that is the driving motivation behind many domestic violence arrests or the officers concern as to their personal public exposure should an arrest not be made?