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State Senator

Mae Flexer

Representing Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson & Windham

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Senator Flexer And Domestic Violence Advocates Call For Change In Connecticut’s Family Violence Arrest Law

Senator Mae Flexer (D- Danielson), joined Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) to call for a change to Connecticut’s family violence arrest law. The proposal, raised as concept in the Judiciary Committee, would add a dominant aggressor provision to the law in an effort to reduce Connecticut’s intimate partner violence dual arrest rate, which currently stands at nearly three times the national average.

“For far too long, Connecticut law has made it harder for domestic violence victims to seek assistance. Current law results in victims being arrested unnecessarily. No abuse victim should have to fear that they will be walked out in handcuffs because they sought help,” said Senator Flexer. “This simple change will ensure that justice is done and that domestic abuse victims will not be arrested for attempting to escape their dangerous situation. It will also empower law enforcement to use their best judgement at the scenes of these incidents, which are some of the most volatile calls that they respond to. I thank CCADV for their continued leadership on this issue and look forward to working alongside them to get it passed this year.”

“Connecticut’s dual arrest rate is unacceptable and it’s time for the state to make this common sense change that’s been adopted by twenty-seven other states,” said Karen Jarmoc, chief executive officer, CCADV. “Dominant aggressor laws have been endorsed by a number of national criminal justice stakeholders and have proven effective in reducing dual arrest rates. This change is critical to address Connecticut’s 30 year struggle with dual arrest.”

The proposal calls for changing Connecticut’s family violence arrest law to clarify that, when receiving complaints from two or more opposing parties, law enforcement must determine which party is the dominant aggressor. Such laws exist in 27 other states and guide law enforcement in determining which party is the most significant aggressor or poses the most serious ongoing threat. The proposed requirement to arrest only that individual will address liability concerns currently held by law enforcement that, based on the existing structure of Connecticut’s family violence mandatory arrest law, they must arrest both people based on probable cause.

A dual arrest occurs when law enforcement arrests both parties at an intimate partner violence incident (note: intimate partner refers to spouses, former spouses, individuals who are dating, or individuals who have a child in common). Connecticut’s intimate partner violence dual arrest rate stands at approximately 20 percent while the national average is 7 percent. A seven-month study recently completed by CCADV revealed that multiple criminal justice stakeholders, both nationally and in Connecticut, point to the current structure of Connecticut’s family violence mandatory arrest law as the largest contributing factor to the state’s high dual arrest rate.

Said Jarmoc, “arresting victims who are acting in response to abuse perpetrated against them is not sound public policy. The practice of dual arrest has a chilling effect on a victim’s willingness to call police for help again in the future. This greatly diminishes the victim’s safety moving forward.”

There are a number of reasons why so many other states have clarified the need to focus on the dominant aggressor. A dual arrest has both short- and long-term impacts on victims, their families, and the criminal justice system. Most significantly is the distrust that victims ultimately have for the criminal justice system following a dual arrest. Children who witness both parents being arrested also form this same distrust. The dual arrest creates financial burdens for the victim and may result in immigration issues. Connecticut’s criminal justice system also experiences a negative impact with limited resources being directed to handle thousands of dual arrests annually, the majority of which are low to moderate risk to reoffend and are ultimately dismissed or nolled. Victims who are also defendants in a dual arrest case have little reason to cooperate with prosecutors because of their own vulnerability to prosecution.

To learn more about dominant aggressor and why Connecticut needs to adopt this change, visit

  • Several national criminal justice stakeholders call for the identification of the dominant aggressor and discourage dual arrests in their policy and training guidelines including:
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Battered Women’s Justice Project
  • National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women
  • National District Attorneys Association, Women Prosecutors Section
  • National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges

27 states with dominant aggressor laws include:

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin






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