Are Madison police required to make an arrest on a domestic violence call?

Even when two people deeply love each other, an argument may spiral out of control quickly. If you add alcohol or drugs to the mix, romantic partners may find it difficult to control their tempers. Still, if an argument becomes physically violent, there is a good chance someone is going to the Dane County jail.

In Madison, police officers have a legal duty to make an arrest for many domestic violence calls. Still, under the Badger State’s mandatory arrest law, the arresting officer must be certain some elements exist to support the arrest.

Probable cause

The first element requires the officer to have probable cause to believe someone committed a crime. Rather than having just suspicion, the officer must have evidence that would cause a reasonable person to believe the individual violated the law.

Domestic relationships

The second element in Wisconsin’s mandatory arrest law indicates the altercation must involve a domestic relationship. The following relationships qualify as domestic under state law:

  • Current and former spouses
  • Current and former co-habiting adults
  • Adults who share children

Domestic abuse

The third element addresses domestic abuse. For officers to have a legal requirement to arrest the suspect, the suspect must have done one or more of the following:

  • Intentionally caused someone to sustain a physical injury, physical pain or an illness
  • Intentionally impaired someone’s ability to use his or her body
  • Performed a physical act that caused someone to fear imminent physical harm

Physical injury

The fourth element requires the officer to have proof the aggressor caused a physical injury. If not, the officer must have a good faith belief that a physical injury is likely to occur in the immediate future.

Time frame

Finally, officers have a legal obligation to arrest a suspect if all other elements are present and someone filed a report within the previous 28 days.

While officers have a legal duty to arrest someone following many domestic violence calls, there are often ways to avoid the many negative consequences that typically come with a conviction. Ultimately, following an arrest, closely examining both the law and the facts of the incident is usually advisable.