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In Domestic Violence Cases, Do Police Have the Discretion to Arrest, or Is an Arrest Mandatory?

Domestic violence calls are not always clear-cut cases of physical mistreatment. In many cases, those who make the call do not have physical injuries, and some may even admit to calling law enforcement prematurely, out of spite, or mistakenly.

In Indiana, the officer has the discretion of whether to arrest a person accused of domestic violence or not. This discretion presents questions about when an arrest is appropriate and what constitutes probable cause.

When an Officer May Arrest Someone on a Domestic Violence Call

Ind. Code § 35-33-1-1 explains that a law enforcement officer “may” arrest someone suspected of committing domestic battery (or another domestic violence offense) if:

  • The officer has a warrant commanding the person’s arrest
  • The officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed a felonious domestic violence offense or is in the course of committing such an offense
  • The officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed, or is in the course of committing, a misdemeanor domestic violence offense

Therefore, if there is no active warrant or probable cause to suspect a domestic violence offense has occurred, the officer may choose not to make an arrest. 

What Serves as Probable Cause in an Indiana Domestic Violence Case?

Those who analyze the U.S. Constitution explain that “probable cause” does not have a single definition. Instead, probable cause is in the eye of the officer. If the officer is under “the belief that the law was being violated,” they may find probable cause to make an arrest on a domestic violence call.

Probable cause could include:

  • A purported victim’s claims that someone struck them
  • Visible injuries
  • A video recording of a domestic dispute
  • Witness testimony documenting the sounds of a physical altercation

Because of the subjectivity in probable cause doctrines, a law enforcement officer has broad discretion to make (or not make) a domestic violence arrest. 

Law Enforcement Often Errs on the Side of Arrest, So Get a Capable Criminal Defense Today

It can be a public relations nightmare if a law enforcement officer does not arrest someone, then that person proceeds to commit a heinous act of domestic violence. Unfortunately, this fear of bad publicity leads countless law enforcement officials to overzealously arrest innocent people.

If you face domestic violence charges in Indiana, retain a law firm with a passion for providing competent criminal defense. Call Razumich & Associates today at 317-449-8661 or contact us online.

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