Domestic violence situations are often difficult for law enforcement officers to assess. Unlike other crimes, which may include someone intentionally committing a crime and a victim, domestic violence situations can involve two people who commit crimes against one another. 

When officers respond to a call made by one of those individuals or by a neighbor concerned because of the noise that the argument or altercation has created, the officers will typically need to make a judgment call after looking at the evidence and hearing the story that each of the people present offers. 

The officers may choose to have one person leave the house or may arrest one of the individuals and charge them with domestic violence.

How do officers decide who to charge?

The individual that officers blame for a domestic violence situation will vary depending on a number of circumstances. They may assume that the person with worse injuries is the victim, even if they incurred those injuries because the other person attempted to defend themselves against a threat or act of violence. 

Officers may also look at previous arrest records or make a decision based on the statements made by the person who called the police. Generally speaking, the goal is to arrest the aggressor, but that isn’t always what happens. Sometimes, when both people claim the other one started the altercation, police arrest the person they think is more likely to blame, which may not reflect the facts of the situation. 

Domestic violence charges can carry a host of consequences for the person accused, including potential limitations on the right to possess a firearm or even limits on where you can go and who you can socialize through no-contact or protective orders.