Connecticut’s domestic violence laws were revised effective January 1, 2019. The changes involve situations where two individuals each complain of domestic violence at the hands of the other. Under the old law, police officers were instructed to conduct a “dual arrest” and take both parties into police custody. Now, police officers root out the “dominant aggressor” for the situation, and they have discretion to only arrest that individual. You can learn more about the new law and how it affects domestic violence cases here.
Here’s an Example: Jake and Diane have been in a dating relationship and live together. One night, they start to argue. Their argument gets heated, and Diane shoves Jake. In response, Jake punches Diane in her face and breaks her nose. Diane then runs into a bedroom and locks the door. Their neighbors hear the fight and call 911.
Should a police officer arrest both of them?
Not under the new version of the law. Jake is the “dominant aggressor” of the fight. A “dominant aggressor” is the person who poses the most serious ongoing threat involving suspected crimes of family violence. In this case, Jake escalated Diane’s behavior by punching her in response to being shoved. Diane’s push of Jake, although the initial act of aggression, is not a serious threat. Jake will be the only one arrested.
But Consider This Alternative: Jake and Diane have been in a dating relationship and live together. One night, they start to argue over the state of their relationship. Their argument gets heated, and Diane slaps Jake across his face. In response, Jake shoves her away from him, but in the process, Diane falls against a wall and hurts her back. Diane then grabs a knife from the kitchen and slashes Jake’s arm. Jake flees to the neighbor’s apartment, who promptly calls the police.
Who gets arrested now?
MOST LIKELY, BOTH OF THEM. This presents a more difficult scenario. Diane is the more dominant aggressor of the two. However, Jake injured her as well. Even though the police officer has discretion under the new law to only arrest the dominant aggressor, this is probably a case where both parties will be arrested and charged.
Domestic violence crimes are complicated, emotional, and often involve competing interests. As you can see in these instances, it is not always clear how a police officer may handle the situation. If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime, you need experienced legal representation. We can help!