Page 1 - DVCC Annual Report 2010-2011

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Attorneys Take on Dual Arrests & Offender Accountability
Persistence appears to be paying off
as DVCC legal advocates forge ahead with
their campaign to influence the way the legal
system responds to victims of domestic
violence. Last March they provided state
legislators, other policymakers andmembers
of Connecticut’s criminal justice systemwith
research and testimony advocating for new
policies aimed at reducing dual arrests in
domesticviolence cases and for the tightening
of eligibility requirements and follow-up
procedures for offenders who are offered
entry into batterer programs as an alternative
to prosecution.
Additionally, the DVCC hosted Dr.
Andrew Klein, a nationally recognized
researcher, statistician and expert on the
criminal justice system’s response tocrimesof
domestic violence, for a two day symposium.
Dr. Klein presented his research and findings
ondual arrests to awide variety of individuals
responsible for how Connecticut’s criminal
justice system handles cases of domestic
violence.
Adomestic violence “dual arrest”occurs
when both parties are arrested and charged
in criminal court. Such arrests are extremely
detrimental for numerous reasons: they re-
victimize the victim by labeling her as an
offender; they adversely impact the level of
trust the victim has in law enforcement to
provide protection; and they make it difficult
for prosecutors to effectively prosecute
the true offender. According to Dr. Klein,
Connecticut has the unfortunate distinction
of having the highest intimate partner dual
arrest rate in the nation. Recent statistics
released fromthe Judicial Branch indicate that
a dual arrest is made in 16.5%of all domestic
violence incidents in Connecticut, which is
significantly higher than the 3.8% national
rate and also compares poorly with rates in
the neighboring states of Rhode Island, New
York and Massachusetts.
According to research cited in a DVCC
position paper on dual arrests, Connecticut
is one of the last states in the nation to have
a domestic violence mandatory arrest law
(meaning police must make an arrest in cases
of domestic violence) without a companion
predominant aggressor provision. Such a
provision would require police to take into
account certain factors in order to determine
which party is the likely aggressor and which
is the likely victim. Suchprovisions have been
shown to significantly reduce dual arrest rates
across the country.
WhileConnecticut state legislators have,
over the last two sessions, passed several
pieces of legislation that benefit victims of
domestic violence, they recognized thatmuch
more work needed to be done. As a result,
the Connecticut General Assembly created
theLawEnforcement Response toDomestic
ViolenceTaskForce chargedwithdeveloping
amodel policy for law enforcement response
to domestic violence. One of the 16 people
named to serve on that task forcewas Andrea
Dahms, a DVCC staff attorney who has
been an active advocate for changes in the
Connecticut legal system’s response tovictims
of domestic violence.
In December, the task force issued its
report, which included recommendations
intended to address dual arrests, including:
that policebeprovidedwithclearer guidelines
regarding evaluating claims of self defense
so that they can use better judgment when
deciding whether an arrest of both parties
in a domestic violence case is necessary; that
a supervisor review all domestic violence
arrests; that a standard state-wide curriculum
be developed to train police on responding to
domestic violence; and that in-service police
training for domestic violence be required
annually, as opposed toonce every three years,
and that such training include updates on
statutory changes andbest practice responses.
Other recommendations encouraged the
judicial branch to work more collaboratively
with court-based domestic violence victim
advocates and to enhance domestic violence
training for judges andprosecutors; suggested
that bail commissioners include evaluations
of victim safety when determining release
conditions; and proposed giving court-based
domestic violence victim advocates access to
non-conviction information toenhance safety
planning efforts with victims.
“This is a good start towards bringing
Connecticut’s dual arrest rates more in line
with the rest of the country,” Dahms said.
“We’ll know we have made real progress
when that number decreases andwe see fewer
victims being inappropriately charged with
criminal conduct for protecting themselves.”
While the Law Enforcement Response
to Domestic Violence Task Force did not
address the issue of increasing accountability
for batterers enrolled in the Family Violence
Education Program, the Connecticut
Coalition Against Domestic Violence has
adopted this issue as one of its priorities for
the 2012 legislative session.
V
o
i
c
e
s
They were
compassionate and
very well informed.
They guided me
skillfully through
the system and at
all times made me
feel as though I had
strong advocates.