This article describes the effects on case processing and victim perceptions of a specialized domestic violence court.
Victim noncooperation with authorities keeps conviction rates for domestic violence offenses far below those for other crimes. Some experts have suggested that mandatory arrest statutes have pulled into the courts many cases in which victims never wanted the batterer charged and prosecuted. Others have suggested that victims are convinced to change their minds during the court process because of intimidation by the defendant or difficult demands by authorities. The article describes a specialized Milwaukee domestic violence court whose primary intent is to speed case disposition to limit the amount of time victims have to change their minds about prosecution, reduce case backlogs, increase convictions, and minimize opportunities for pretrial violence. Sample data collected before and after the start of the special court show that case processing time was halved, convictions increased by 25 percent (although the proportion of convicted defendants who served jail time declined), and pretrial crime declined. The study found no evidence that the specialized court led to a decline in recidivism after case disposition. The results were achieved without coercion of victims to cooperate with prosecutions and without additional resources. Notes, tables, figure, references