U.S. flag

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

Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research Part II: Prosecution

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2008
92 pages

This second part of a three-part study of the practical implications of domestic violence research for criminal justice personnel focuses on prosecutors' policies and procedures.


Among the issues addressed in the reviewed research are the prevalence of nonfatal domestic violence, the rate at which domestic violence reaches the courts, whether arrest is the best response, perpetrator and victim characteristics, risk for reoffending and homicide, whether prosecution of offenders deters reabuse, and the current level of domestic-violence prosecutions across the country. Also discussed are the evidence typically available for prosecuting domestic violence cases, the dispositions most suspects receive, whether specialized prosecution units are effective, sentences for convicted batterers, and whether batterer intervention programs prevent reabuse. One of the implications drawn from research on the prevalence and adverse impact of domestic violence on victims is that prosecutors must commit sufficient resources and attention to ensure that domestic violence cases are handled efficiently and effectively. Given the severity of injuries and high risk for homicide in domestic violence cases, prosecutors must adopt policies that provide protection for victims, their children, other family members, and responding law enforcement officers, as well as to protect abusers from suicide. Another recommendation based on research findings is that prosecutors should encourage law enforcement agencies to arrest abuser suspects by filing charges and committing resources to the prosecution of those arrested. In cases where both intimate partners are arrested by police, prosecutors should independently determine who the primary aggressor was and proceed against only that suspect. Prosecutors should take all steps possible to have firearms removed by the court as soon as abusers are arrested and obtain guilty verdicts so that Federal firearm prohibitions apply. Prosecution deters domestic violence if it imposes appropriate intrusive sentences, including supervised probation and incarceration. 200 references and 373 notes

Date Published: April 1, 2008