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Domestic Violence Legislation: Exploring Its Impact on the Likelihood of Domestic Violence, Police Involvement, and Arrest

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 2 Issue: 2 Dated: March 2003 Pages: 283-312
Date Published
March 2003
30 pages

This article examines the efficacy of legislation aimed at reducing domestic violence in terms of its ability to decrease incidents of domestic violence, garner police involvement, and increase arrests.


State and Federal legislatures have increasingly passed statutes aimed at reducing the occurrence of domestic violence, either through mandatory or presumptive arrest policies or by providing greater protection for the victim through protection orders. While legislation aimed at the problem of domestic violence continues to grow, scant research has focused on the efficacy of such efforts. As such, the author examined data from the National Crime Victimization Survey to test whether legislative mandates affect the level of domestic violence, police involvement, and arrest procedures. Results of logistic regression analyses revealed that most statutes did reduce the incidents of domestic violence. On the other hand, few legislative mandates had an impact on police involvement and none resulted in more arrests. Interestingly, the data indicate that States that have mandatory arrest laws are more likely to reduce the incidence of domestic violence, however, police in these States are less likely to discover an incident of domestic violence. Upon further examination, the author concluded that in mandatory arrest States, third parties were less likely to call the police to report domestic violence. In conclusion, it appears that aggressive legislative mandates may help reduce the likelihood of domestic violence, however, legislation does not address what happens to the victim or the offender once the police have been called. Tables, figures, references, appendix

Date Published: March 1, 2003