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Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research Part III: Judges

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2008
89 pages

This third part of a three-part study of the practical implications of domestic violence research for criminal justice personnel focuses on judges' policies and practices.


The research findings reviewed pertain to the prevalence of domestic violence, what percentage of domestic violence cases reach courts, whether arrest should be encouraged, characteristics of perpetrators and victims, the recidivism rate, the characteristics of recidivists, characteristics of abusers at highest risk for killing their partners, whether prosecution and sentencing of offenders deters recidivism, whether aggressive prosecution and sentencing increases the demand for trials, and appropriate sentences for convicted batterers. Other research reviewed pertains to whether batterer intervention programs prevent reabuse, the effectiveness of civil protective orders, and whether specialized domestic violence courts are effective. Regarding research on the prevalence and adverse impact of domestic violence on its victims, this study recommends that judges commit sufficient resources and attention to ensure that domestic violence cases are handled efficiently and effectively. It further advises judges to identify stalking behavior and recognize the importance of affording victims maximum protection against these potentially lethal abusers. Also, judges' decisions in domestic violence cases must give priority to the protection of victims, their children, other family members, responding police officers, as well as abusers at risk for suicide. In this regard, judges must insist they receive sufficient information on any pattern of systemic, abusive behaviors that place victims at high risk. In deciding on remedies and sentences upon conviction, judges should assume that the behavior at issue is not unique to the single case. Judges should also be aware that reducing assault charges to nonassault charges allows convicted abusers to retain firearms otherwise prohibited under Federal law. Pretrial and sentencing decisions should consider victim protection, such that abusers are controlled through incarceration or intensive supervision in the community. 200 references and 361 notes

Date Published: April 1, 2008