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No-Drop Prosecution of Domestic Violence: Just Good Policy, or Equal Protection Mandate?

NCJ Number
Stanford Law Review Volume: 52 Issue: 1 Dated: November 1999 Pages: 205-233
Kalyani Robbins
Kathryn R. Haun, Brian J. Hicks
Date Published
29 pages
This article argues that the 14th Amendment's equal protection requirement that domestic assault victims receive the same police protection as victims of other crimes should extend to the courtroom and thus should also require effective prosecution, which is rare without a no-drop policy requiring that these cases proceed to trial.
Police, prosecutors, judges, and even legislators in many jurisdictions regard domestic violence as something other than a real crime. The low priority still given to domestic violence prosecutions reflects archaic social attitudes and negative stereotypes of women dating from early common law, in which women had no identity separate from their husbands. The doctrine of family privacy has been the means of transporting these old notions to the present. A no-drop policy takes away from the victim the option of dropping a domestic violence charge and limits the prosecutor's discretion to drop a case. Either the victim must testify or the prosecutor must use other evidence such as 911 tapes, other witnesses, and photographs of injuries. However, a truly effective no-drop policy allows prosecutorial discretion with regard to decisions affecting victim safety. Equal protection standards already extend to police protection in domestic violence cases in many jurisdiction, but this protection does not yet extend to the prosecutorial stage. However, effective prosecution of these crimes is essential to providing the required equal police protection to domestic violence victims; therefore, the Constitution should mandate it. The remaining jurisdictions that have not already done so should implement a no-drop policy. Footnotes


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