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A National Portrait of Domestic Violence Courts

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2009
161 pages
In providing a comprehensive national profile of domestic violence courts (DVCs), this study explored how criminal DVCs have evolved, their rationale, and how their operations vary across the United States.
The study's major findings pertain to DVC goals, victim services and safety, offender assessments and programs, and compliance monitoring. Regarding DVC goals, most courts emphasize victim safety, offender accountability, deterring recidivism, rehabilitation, and efficient case processing. Regarding victim services and safety, DVCs generally emphasize victim advocacy services, orders of protection, and victim safety while attending court. Regarding offender assessment and programs, most assessments were usually conducted by prosecution staff, probation, or the staff of batterer programs or other outside programs. All courts reported using batterer programs, but with widely varying frequency. Orders to attend other types of programs were as prevalent as orders to batterer programs. Regarding compliance monitoring, 62 percent of the DVCs reported "always" or "often" ordering offenders to probation supervision. Fifty-six percent of courts reported requiring a return to court for postdisposition monitoring. At such hearings, 27 percent of DVCs reported imposing sanctions for noncompliance. Other topics addressed in open-ended survey questions and on-site interviews were collaboration, consistency, training, victim outreach, and resources. For the purposes of this study, DVCs were defined as courts that handle domestic violence cases on a separate calendar or assign domestic violence cases to one or more dedicated judges or judicial officers. Using a variety of investigative methods, the study developed a comprehensive list of criminal DVCs nationwide. Three DVCs in each of five States were visited to develop in-depth information. Surveys involved all qualifying courts in the national compendium and prosecutors linked to each court. Phone interviews were conducted with a subsample of court survey respondents. 11 tables, 2 figures, 66 references, appended study instruments, and a national compendium of DVCs

Date Published: December 1, 2009