U.S. flag

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

Deterrent Effect of Prosecuting Domestic Violence Misdemeanors

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 44 Issue: 3 Dated: July 1998 Pages: 434-442
Date Published
9 pages

This study analyzes the deterrent effect of prosecuting domestic violence misdemeanors.


The deterrent effect of arrest on domestic violence has been well researched. However, the effect of arrest should be examined within the context of whether and how cases are prosecuted and sanctions imposed. The study analyzed rearrest as a function of court disposition in a sample (n = 1,133) of domestic violence misdemeanor cases. There was no effect of disposition on rearrest within a 6-month period. The likelihood of recidivism was indistinguishable for cases resulting in nolles, dismissals, probation with batterer treatment program, and jail sentences. The article concludes that, because habitual behavior occurs in the privacy of people's homes and out of the public eye, much of it is likely to be highly resistant to change. The criminal justice system has an important role in protecting victims from abuse by more powerful persons, but criminal justice intervention is not always the controlling factor in interpersonal relationships governed by complex forces. Table, references

Date Published: January 1, 1998