Senator Bye Joins Unanimous Vote to Define 'Dominant Aggressor' in Domestic Violence Incidents

HARTFORD – State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) joined a unanimous and bipartisan state Senate vote this evening on a bill that would require a police officer responding to a domestic violence incident to arrest the "dominant aggressor" in the situation.

The bill seeks to discourage the practice of so-called "dual arrests" where police arrest both a man and a woman (for instance) when responding to a domestic violence call; Connecticut's dual arrest rate in domestic incidents is 20 percent, which is three times higher than the national average of 7 percent.

According to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, dual arrests have been found to decrease victim safety by decreasing a victim's willingness to call police for assistance. Dual arrests also have financial consequences, traumatize children, and overburden our courts.

"The 40,000 victims of domestic violence in Connecticut are going to benefit from this bill, because no longer will victims fear the unnecessary dual arrests that are so common in this state," Sen. Bye said. "Domestic violence cases are already one-third of our criminal dockets. If this bill becomes law we can streamline court operations, protect the innocent, and achieve a higher level of justice by arresting dominant aggressors."

In an effort to reduce the number of dual arrests, the bill defines a "dominant aggressor" as the person who poses the most serious, ongoing threat in a situation involving a suspected family violence crime. To determine who the dominant aggressor is, a police officer must consider the need to protect domestic violence victims; whether one person acted in self-defense or in defense of a third person; the relative degree of any injury; threats creating fear of physical injury; and any history of family violence between the people involved.

Under existing law, and unchanged by the bill, the officer's decision to arrest and charge the perpetrator must not be based on getting the victim's specific consent, the relationship of the parties, or solely on a victim's request.

Also under existing state law, a peace officer investigating a family violence incident must not threaten to arrest all parties to discourage any of them from requesting law enforcement intervention.

The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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