Most people have a general idea of domestic violence but have little idea of the specific behaviors that could lead to an arrest. Since a domestic violence arrest can potentially have life-changing consequences for most defendants, it’s essential to understand when police can take such an action.
Statutory requirements for a domestic violence arrest
A Washington D.C. police officer has particular criteria that must be met before they can make an arrest for domestic violence. The Code of the District of Columbia (D.C. Code) states in Section 16-1031 that an officer must make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe that:
- a person has committed an intrafamily offense that has caused a physical injury (which includes physical pain or illness) or,
- committed an intrafamily offense that was intended to cause reasonable fear of imminent serious injury or death
- the suspect does not have to perform these acts in front of a police officer
Exception for minor offenders
Even though the D.C. code requires police to make an arrest if they have probable cause of an intrafamily offense under most circumstances, there is a statutory exception when a minor is suspected of such a crime.
If the offender is under 18 years of age and the act doesn’t involve an intimate partner as defined in section 16-1001 of the D.C. code, the officer may choose not to make an arrest. However, if not arrested, the suspect must be diverted to a program that provides behavioral health and community support services.
While these legal criteria may seem simple, many legal issues still surround such an arrest. Probable cause has its own legal meaning and has a considerable body of case law that expands upon the statutory definition.