One of the more counter-intuitive initiatives in recent weeks comes from the Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), which on Monday launched a campaign to repeal mandatory arrest for domestic violence. The organization contends that the policy results in the loss of 600 lives a year.
In conjunction with its campaign SAVE, a non-profit focused on improving the effectiveness of America’s domestic violence laws, has compiled and summarized research on the impact of domestic violence laws in the report, “Arrest Policies for Domestic Violence.”
The report highlights a Harvard University study that found that mandatory arrest laws have the unintended result of increasing partner homicides by 57 percent, as they discourage victims from calling the police.
SAVE notes that mandatory arrest acts to usurp the victim’s autonomy — when victims call 911, they often do so to stabilize a situation, rather than get their partner arrested. Once the police arrive, however, the victim cannot prevent that arrest.
“Following an incident of mutual pushing and shoving, one woman recounted, ‘I called 911 to prevent the situation from escalating. Thus began the spiral into hell … the police told my husband that one of us would have to go to jail … My right to choose was taken away from me and I have been placed in the stereotype of a weak woman with no backbone … I am bitter and angry and truly feel like a victim, not of my husband, but of the legal system!’” reads an example from the report.
According to SAVE, only 30.5 percent of people arrested for domestic violence are ever convicted of a crime, and that the 700,000 wrongfully arrested each year cost the government $390.9 million annually.
Teri Stoddard SAVE’s director of public affaids told The Daily Caller that the emotional repercussions of mandatory arrest policies have been “devastating” for those involved.
“Half of all domestic violence is mutual,” she said. “So often there is a situation where both people are angry at each other, and often there might not even be any physical confrontation yet. They are just angry, yelling. Somebody might call the police, send somebody out. And in states where they have mandatory arrest laws, a police officer will have to chose one person to arrest.”
While the 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act removed its policy requiring mandatory arrest, there are still many states which continued to subscribe to mandatory arrest policies. SAVE is working to get popular support to change these policies.
“For years, persons have known get-tough mandatory arrest policies weren’t working,” said SAVE director Dr. Claudia Cornell. “Now, victims of domestic violence need to send a powerful message to lawmakers: ‘Remove mandatory arrest policies.’”
SAVE is calling on Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to ensure that states soon will strike the policy from their books.
“Call Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy NOW! Tell him to make sure the upcoming reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act includes strong incentives to get these states to remove their mandatory arrest policies. These states need to re-establish the ‘probable-cause’ standard for arrest — that’s what the Fourth Amendment says, and that’s what victims are demanding!” the group writes on its website.