U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Effects of No-Drop Prosecution of Domestic Violence Upon Conviction Rates

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2001
13 pages
This article discusses the pros and cons of no-drop prosecution of domestic violence.
No-drop or evidence-based prosecution was begun in San Diego in the late 1980's in response to the high dismissal rate of domestic violence cases. Until that time, it had been the practice of most prosecutors and judges to dismiss domestic cases in which the victim was unwilling to come to court or testify against the defendant. Since many victims failed to cooperate for a variety of reasons, domestic violence cases had dismissal rates many times higher than other crimes. In a major study conducted of 142 large prosecutors’ offices in the United States, 66 percent of the prosecutors reported that their office had adopted no-drop policies. Advocates argue that no-drop policies are victim-friendly. The goal of this study was to find out if no-drop prosecution policies increased the rate of successful prosecution and the number of convictions. Samples of 200 domestic violence court cases during the year prior to implementation of the no-drop policy, and 200 cases that began during the year after the policy was adopted were collected in Everett, Washington, and Klamath Falls, Oregon. Results showed that, in both sites, the implementation of the no-drop policy was followed by a large increase in guilty pleas and a corresponding reduction in dismissals, as prosecutors stood ready to proceed even without a victim present in court and willing to testify. The proportion of cases resulting in trials increased tenfold indicating a more adversarial atmosphere following the introduction of the new policy. Although the no-drop policies adopted in these two jurisdictions were followed by large increases in convictions, the prosecutorial success did not come without costs. No-drop policies are expensive. Another potential cost is the effect upon citizens’ willingness to call the police when they become the victims of domestic violence. It is not known whether no-drop increases victim safety or places the victims in greater jeopardy. 2 figures, 17 references

Date Published: January 1, 2001