January 6, 2006
Legislative Development: Wisconsin Requires Police to Identify Primary Aggressor in Making Domestic Violence Arrests
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed into law legislation that clarifies Wisconsin's domestic violence laws. The new law requires that law enforcement officers identify and arrest only the "predominant aggressor" in a domestic abuse case. "Predominant aggressor" is used rather than the common term "primary aggressor" in order to make clear that the first person to strike is not necessarily the person who should be arrested. The law is intended to help law enforcement determine which party is the worst aggressor in the dispute, and avoid arresting the victim.
According to the Wisconsin Democratic Party press release on the legislation: " It is estimated that in some communities, as many as 40 percent of the domestic abuse cases involve the "dual arrest" of both parties involved. Despite the intent of current law, which requires the arrest of the "primary aggressor," victims are often arrested because they have inflicted physical harm on their attackers in self-defense. Arresting the victims in domestic abuse cases often discourages their future cooperation with law enforcement and their involvement in beneficial community services available to them."
The text of the legislation is available on the web (last visited January 6, 2006 bgf).