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Intimate Partner Violence Victims Charged With Crimes: Justice and Accountability for Victims of Battering Who Use Violence Against Their Batterers

NCJ Number
Jeffrey P. Greipp; Toolsi Gowin Meisner; Douglas J. Miles
Date Published
December 2010
37 pages
This monograph guides prosecutors in the management of cases in which victims of domestic violence ("victim-defendants") are charged with crimes committed against their abusers.
The monograph addresses four issues in such cases. First, it identifies and discusses overarching considerations for prosecutors. The challenge for prosecutors in handling victim-defendant domestic violence cases is to fashion a disposition that balances the victim-defendant's ongoing safety concerns with appropriate levels of accountability for how victims may retaliate against their abusers. This involves conducting an extensive investigation that will reveal the dynamics of the abusive interactions between the victim-defendant and the dominant aggressor in the abusive relationship. Second, the monograph discusses the steps necessary to determine whether or not a defendant charged with domestic violence is, in fact, a victim of battering and whether the complainant in the case is the batterer. In this process, it is critical that prosecutors work with other allied professionals who have worked with domestic violence cases. The victim-defendant's prior criminal history should be reviewed, along with that of the complainant. Any history of violence behavior in the relationship should also be determined. Third, the prosecutor should consider ways to determine whether the defendant acted in self-defense as part of an analysis of the predominant aggressor in the domestic interactions. Fourth, once the prosecutor has analyzed the domestic context for defendant and complainant interactions, the appropriate disposition should be determined. Pre-plea dispositions allow prosecutors to minimize the negative collateral consequences of a conviction and still hold victim-defendants appropriately accountable for their illegal conduct. Under such arrangements, victim-defendants agree to complete several conditions in exchange for the prosecution's decision not to proceed with a criminal case. The monograph also discusses other statutory alternatives to conviction. 32 notes