Area legislators support domestic violence arrest reform

State representatives William A. Petit, Jr. (R-22), Whit Betts (R-78) and Cara Pavalock D’Amato (R-77) joined fellow legislative colleagues in the Connecticut House of Representatives in supporting a dominant aggressor provision within the existing state laws to improve the arrest protocol in cases of family violence, by allowing arrest of said dominant aggressor.

The bill, SB 466 An Act Concerning Dual Arrests and the Training Required of Law Enforcement Personnel with Respect to Domestic Violence, co-sponsored by Petit, allows a peace officer, when responding to a family violence complaint made by two or more opposing parties, to arrest the person the officer determines is the dominant aggressor (the person who poses the most serious ongoing threat in a situation involving a suspected family violence crime). Current state law includes a mandatory arrest provision, whereby both parties involved in the domestic dispute may be arrested. The addition to the underlying statute does not preclude a dual arrest if the investigating officer feels that is appropriate.

“I proudly joined my legislative colleagues in strong support of this measure, which stands up for victims of domestic violence and tells them that they don’t have to be afraid to come forward for fear of prosecution any longer,” said Petit, a co-sponsor of the bill in a press release from House Republicans. “Victims of domestic violence have shared their traumatic stories with me about their experiences and how the very laws that should be protecting them were causing further trauma because of the dual arrest provision. This measure will give law enforcement the training and assistance they need to determine a dominant aggressor, ensure that victims are protected and encourage people to report abuse.  The measure also continues to require the law enforcement agency, in conjunction with the Division of Criminal Justice, to develop and implement specific operational guidelines for arrest policies in family violence incidents, and requires that a minimum of two hours of training on the factors for determining a dominant aggressor in a family violence case be provided.”

Betts, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “Due to the mandatory arrest provision, the dual arrest rate in the state of Connecticut is nearly three times the national average. When law enforcement is called to a domestic dispute, the dual arrest provision meant that more often than not, both the aggressor and the victim would be arrested. Not only will this measure provide law enforcement with the authority to arrest the perpetrator of violence, but also empower victims to come forward and report without fear of prosecution.”

Pavalock-D’Amato, also a co-sponsor of the bill, added, “I’m pleased to see that Connecticut has finally joined its New England neighbors in adding the dominant aggressor provision, in support of the victims who’ve had to endure abuse and suffer in silence, for fear of being arrested if they reported to law enforcement. This bill is a tremendous step in the right direction to support victims and the many young children who are traumatized by the experience of witnessing their abused parents being arrested by law enforcement.”

Due to the mandatory arrest provision, the press release explained, the dual arrest rate in the State of Connecticut is nearly three times the national average. According to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 27 percent of family violence dispatch calls result in a dual arrest. Additionally, intakes as a direct result of a domestic violence arrest account for 32 percent of what is on the criminal docket for courts across the state, creating a huge logistical and financial burden for the state. In addition, the arrest dual arrest often decreases the victim’s safety, creates additional trauma for the victim’s children (children see a victim arrested and develop distrust of authority), raises a defense for the aggressor when the victim has been arrested and charged, and creates a larger legal Financial burdened for the victim.

The measure passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 147-1, and the state Senate earlier this week by a vote of 36-0.  It was transmitted to the governor’s desk for immediate signing.