Houman Fakhimi

How do Police Investigate Domestic Violence?

California Domestic Violence Laws

What exactly is the difference between assault and battery and assault and battery committed against one’s fiancé, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or cohabitant? Both are crimes, but the latter charges fall under the California domestic violence laws, which dole out harsher punishments and carrier a heavier importance in both law enforcement and judicial dynamics.

California domestic violence laws make it illegal to use physical force–or to communicate threats of harm–against an intimate partner. This highlights the seriousness of these crimes.

California District Attorneys

Almost every district attorney’s office in California has a special unit dedicated to prosecuting domestic violence cases. Because it’s not uncommon for a victim to recant or to pull away from pressing charges, most district attorneys have plans in place that allow them to move forward with the prosecution. Most California counties will require jail time for those convicted of domestic assault. This is true for even first offenders.

The reality is domestic violence is one of America’s best kept secrets. In most instances, women hide abuse for decades or they leave without ever having told their secret. Today, we see more men coming forward with their stories of domestic abuse inflicted on them. They too share some of the same emotions, fears and truths that they might never have wished.

After the 911 Call

The investigation itself will start with a contact with law enforcement. In some cities, 911 calls for scared victims are by far the most common calls received by a department. Officers arrive and recognizing the situation could be dangerous for them, will require both parties to submit to being restrained, at least temporarily. This is because 22 percent of officers’ “in the line of duty” deaths are committed when responding to a domestic violence call. Not only that, but one-third of homicides where a woman is the victim is at the hands of an intimate partner. As a result, 95 percent of law enforcement agencies across the nation and certainly in California, now have specialized training when called to a domestic violence situation.

Once the officers have secured the scene, they speak to each party. They ask both parties if there are weapons on site and if so, they secure them as well. After the statements have been taken, evidence is collected and most often, this includes still images and video. It’s important to memorialize the minutes and hours after the call to ensure lawyers can prepare the best defense.

A risk assessment is then determined and includes a safety plan that the victim is strongly encouraged to consider. Again, with the high rate of homicides at the hands of domestic partners, it’s important the victims understand the risks of staying.

Law enforcement works closely within the legal system and works to ensure the victim is safely out of reach of his or her partner. There are resources available in every community and the victim is provided the contact information with encouragement to reach out.