Domestic Violence / Abuse – When Arrest is Required by Law

Often I get people in my office who don’t understand why the police showed up at their house and arrested them simply based on what another person said, without any unbiased witnesses.  I also hear wives and girlfriends of my clients who tell me that they called the police on their significant other just to “scare them”, or to help calm a situation down, and that they didn’t want the police to actually make an arrest.

The Wisconsin Statute that deals with making an arrest and taking someone to jail when there is an alleged domestic violence incident is §968.075(2).  This law says that a law enforcement officer has to arrest and take into custody a person if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person committed a crime that constitutes domestic abuse, and if the officer has a reasonable basis to believe that continuing domestic abuse against the alleged victim is likely, or there is evidence of physical injury to the alleged victim, or the suspect is likely the primary aggressor.

Also, if both of the parties had a hand in what occurred.  For example, husband and wife get into a fight and both parties were shoving or hitting each other.  In Wisconsin, according to §968.075(2)(am), Wis. Stats., police officers have been told that it is only appropriate to arrest the person who they reasonably believe to be the predominant aggressor, and not both parties.

Trying to figure out who the predominant aggressor is will never be an exact science for police officers.  Some things that officers are supposed to consider when attempting to identify the primary aggressor are:

  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse between the parties
  • Witness statements
  • Relative degree of injury inflicted on the parties
  • Extent to which each person appears to fear the other party
  • Whether there were any threats of future harm toward the other party or a family/household member
  • Whether either party acted in self-defense

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a domestic violence or abuse related crime, you should call an experienced attorney right away.  There may be a no-contact order in place, even after the arrested person has been released from jail.  An experienced attorney can help the parties to get that no-contact order dropped if the parties are interested in doing so.