In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a big push among domestic-violence-prevention advocates to encourage states to adopt laws requiring the mandatory arrest of domestic violence perpetrators, regardless of whether the violence was likely to cause death or serious injury (for example, shoving, slapping, and other bad but nevertheless not life threatening acts). The push was also for mandatory arrest for any violation of an Order of Protection (or whatever the other 49 states refer to their stay away because of domestic violence orders). The thinking behind these policies was that arresting the aggressor and forcing that person to stay out of the house for at least the night would work well to de-escalate the situation and would ultimately save lives. Over half the states ultimately adopted laws implementing mandatory arrest for domestic violence.
Illinois so far has refused to implement a mandatory arrest law for violation of an Order of Protection or for domestic violence. See 750 ILCS 60/301(a) (“Any law enforcement officer may [but not “must” or “shall”] make an arrest without warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed or is committing any crime [including domestic violence]”). And, there has been significant backlash and outcry against Illinois for taking what seemed like a reasonable step to save the lives of domestic violence victims.
A brief explanation about how the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment caused so many states to adopt mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence.
The driving force behind the push for mandatory arrest policies was the results of the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment (MilDVE). Wikipedia provides a good summary of the MilDVE, but I will attempt to summarize the important parts here. In 1981 and 1982, the MilDVE compared the rates of re-offending for domestic violence perpetrators when the perpetrator was randomly treated in one of three ways:
- The police instructed the aggressor to stay away for eight hours,
- The police sent the aggressor and victim to a counselor or mediator to discuss the cause of the dispute, or
- The police arrested the aggressor.
The MilDVE found that the third option, mandatory arrest, significantly reduced the rates of further domestic violence and re-offending by the aggressor. Thus, the large push to implement mandatory arrest policies occurred shortly after the MilDVE results were released.
Turns out that mandatory arrest policies had deadly consequences.
Lawrence W. Sherman and Heather M. Harris published an interesting second look at the MilDVE results in May 2014 in the Journal of Experimental Criminology, called “Increased death rates of domestic violence victims from arresting vs. warning suspects in the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment (MilDVE).” A free PDF copy of the article is available at the link in the previous sentence by clicking on the “Download PDF” button.
It’s hard to bury the lede with a study title like that, but that’s exactly what they found. Domestic violence victims whose spouse was subject to mandatory arrest policies had significantly higher rates of mortality over the 23 years between when the MilDVE was completed and when they looked at the data. By “significantly” they mean “really, really, really significantly.” They found that “Victims were 64% more likely to have died of all causes if their partners were arrested and jailed than if warned and allowed to remain at home.” 64% more likely to die because of the mandatory arrest policy! That is an incredible number.
How to protect against domestic violence in Illinois.
Domestic violence is a serious matter with often deadly consequences. Gaining protection from an abusive spouse, family member, or stalker is a life-and-death proposition for many victims. Getting out of an abusive situation is easier said than done, but at least the law gives you the framework to get the help you need. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act contains a comprehensive framework to enable abused spouses to get out of abusive relationships, to get a police-enforced Order of Protection, and to obtain spousal maintenance, child support, and financial support until you can get on your feet.
I primarily work out of McHenry County, Illinois but accept Order of Protection cases throughout the northern Illinois area. If you are a victim of domestic violence, do not hesitate to give me a call–day or night at (815) 317-5193. I give my domestic violence clients the highest priority and fight hard to help them get back on their feet.