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Domestic violence: how do police decide who to arrest?

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2022 | Criminal Law |

Facing an arrest can be a frightening experience. When it involves domestic violence, there’s always a great deal of emotion included, as well. Incidents of domestic violence, or accusations of them, usually spring from the home or other secluded space, meaning what happened is often one person’s word against another’s. So how does law enforcement decide whether an arrest should be made?

The law guides the actions of police

Georgia Code Section 17-4-20.1 spells out what an officer can and cannot do when presented with an accusation of violence against a family member. These are instances when the officer is called to the scene, after the alleged crime has occurred, rather than a case when the officer witnesses a crime.

For starters, officers are not obliged to arrest anyone. Instead, they must make the decision based upon the results of the investigation they conduct on site. Additionally, they may not make their decision based solely upon a request by a family member that another be arrested. There must be more evidence.

If more than one person is claiming they were assaulted by the other, the officer must look at each claim independently and attempt to identify the predominant aggressor. ‘Predominant aggressor’ is a legal term within the Code – it does not necessarily refer to the person who was the initial aggressor.

Instead, it means the person who poses the most serious and ongoing threat. To reach this conclusion, an officer will consider any history of violence between the parties, including threats of violence. They will evaluate any injuries sustained by either person and the potential for future injuries. They will also take into account whether either party acted in self-defense.

Allegations of domestic violence are usually complex cases which require the assistance of a professional who is experienced in Georgia criminal law. If you’re facing such allegations, don’t hesitate to seek their help.