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State Senator

Mae Flexer

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

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Flexer Leads Senate Passage of Bill Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence

State Senator Mae Flexer (D-Danielson) led a unanimous and bipartisan state Senate vote this evening on a bill that would require a police officer responding to a domestic violence incident to arrest the “dominant aggressor” in the situation and dramatically reduce the rates of so-called “dual arrests” where police arrest both parties when responding to a domestic violence call. Connecticut’s dual arrest rate in domestic incidents is 20 percent, which is nearly three times higher than the national average of 7 percent.

According to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, dual arrests have been found to decrease victim safety by decreasing a victim’s willingness to call police for assistance. Dual arrests also have financial consequences, traumatize children, and overburden our courts.

“For far too long, Connecticut has been arresting domestic violence victims at rates that lead the nation. Unwarranted arrests can cause trauma for the victim and their families and lead to financial instability and distrust of the criminal justice system. These arrests can also hinder prosecution and overload our courts,” Sen. Flexer said. “Law enforcement officers need to be permitted to recognize and arrest the dominant aggressors in these dangerous situations. This will allow law enforcement to arrest only the party they deem to pose the most serious, ongoing threat. By passing this legislation we are telling victims of domestic violence that they can call the police and ask for their help without fear of being arrested and empower them to become survivors.”

In an effort to reduce the number of dual arrests, the bill defines a “dominant aggressor” as the person who poses the most serious, ongoing threat in a situation involving a suspected family violence crime. To determine who the dominant aggressor is, a police officer must consider the need to protect domestic violence victims; whether one person acted in self-defense or in defense of a third person; the relative degree of any injury; threats creating fear of physical injury; and any history of family violence between the people involved.

Under existing law, and unchanged by the bill, the officer’s decision to arrest and charge the perpetrator must not be based on getting the victim’s specific consent, the relationship of the parties, or solely on a victim’s request.

Also under existing state law, an officer investigating a family violence incident must not threaten to arrest all parties to discourage any of them from requesting law enforcement intervention.

The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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