Not too long ago, a police officer could only make an arrest if he or she witnesses an assault. Today all states have laws that allow a police officer to arrest a person suspected of domestic violence. Most states have a policy of preferred arrest – the police officer must arrest one or both parties or submit a report as to why he or she did not make an arrest. The exact policy varies from state to state and even from one jurisdiction to another within the same states. Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York have mandatory arrest policies. The law was changed after the lawmakers realized the seriousness of domestic violence and how preventive arrests can save victims from further harm. Generally the following conditions must be present before an arrest can be made:
• There must be probable cause that an offense was committed
• The victim and the suspect abuser must be in a domestic relationship
• The act complained off should be within the meaning of domestic assault
• There is evidence of physical harm/injury or that the abuse will continue if the suspect abuser is not arrested
• The victim reported the incident within 28 days of the occurrence of the incident
If these conditions are not present, the officer has the discretion whether or not to make an arrest. All states have statutes defining domestic violence. There are slight variations amongst the state statutes but they are generally similar to the following example:
Domestic violence is defined by the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) section 26.50.010 as any of the following points:
• Physical or psychological abuse: Bodily attacks or attacks that result in emotional distress.
• Threats: Statements that insinuate impending harm.
• Forced behavior: An act that a victim does not want to perform, but is compelled to do when pressured by another individual.
• Stalking: As defined in section 9A.46.110 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and upon a family member or an individual that lives in the same residence.