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Mandatory arrests come into play during domestic disputes

You and your spouse were sitting at home without any trouble, but then they started insinuating that you weren't paying enough attention to them. You began to argue, and they jumped out at you as if to hurt you. In response, you also lashed out, but you ended up striking them.

Your spouse instigated this disagreement and even made the first move to attack, but they were quick to call 911 and tell the police that you hit them. The reality is more complicated, but when the police arrived, they said that they were going to arrest you and take you to the station.

In New York, it is mandatory to arrest at least one person when responding to a domestic violence call. The person who is arrested is determined after a short initial visit to the property, so it's not a surprise that it's often the victim who ends up being arrested and taken to the station.

Mandatory arrest laws do make it more likely that both people will be arrested on a domestic abuse call

Thanks to the law, it's more likely that both parties will be arrested at the scene when the police are called to handle a case of domestic violence. However, there is no requirement that both parties have to be arrested. The police must make an arrest if they have reasonable cause to believe that one party committed a crime against another involved in the situation.

Are there exceptions to mandatory arrest?

Yes, there are. One exception is that the police must arrest the primary aggressor when both parties are alleged to have committed misdemeanors. To determine the primary aggressor, they'll factor in information such as:

  • if anyone caused injury to another person and the seriousness of those injuries
  • if either party has a past history of domestic violence
  • if anyone was acting in self-defense
  • if either party threatened future harm against someone in the home

Certain offenses, which are known as violation-level offenses, are not subject to mandatory arrest. Harassment is one such offense. The officers can still remove the alleged abuser from the scene, but it would technically be a citizen's arrest.

If you find yourself in a position where you've been accused of violence but were acting in self-defense, it's important to build up a criminal defense for yourself. These cases can be hard to prove, but you still want to have an attorney on your side to support your innocence.

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Suffolk County Defenders Association New York State Defenders Association | Founded 1967 New York State Bar Association Suffolk County Bar Association | NY 1908

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