Russell Hebets April 4, 2013

Almost daily some poor uninformed soul comes into our office or calls with the same story. “My husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend and I were having a heated argument and I called the police to calm things down.” To the average person this sounds logical. It sounds reasonable. To anyone who knows our criminal justice system it sounds like a bad idea. The reason is simple: In virtually any police department in Colorado and in much of the United States, if the police are called to a domestic dispute it is almost guaranteed that at least one party is going to be arrested. Most police departments have mandatory arrest policies that require them to take one person in the domestic dispute into custody.

Every year more and more stringent domestic violence laws are passed, and with good reason. Domestic violence is a pervasive social problem in America and should be taken seriously. The problem is that every time a wider net is cast, more and more innocent people are caught up in the system. A domestic violence arrest carries significant consequences, even if the person charged is ultimately found not guilty or if charges are dismissed.

Take a typical example that we see all the time. There is a fight between a husband and wife. The husband says something very hurtful, the wife slaps the husband. The husband grabs wife’s arm to keep her from slapping him again. Guess what guys? One or both of you are going to jail. It doesn’t matter that nobody was hurt. It doesn’t matter that husband and wife have never had this happen before. It doesn’t matter that they immediately kiss and make up. Someone is going to jail. Not only is someone going to jail, but they’re going to sit in jail until a judge sets a bond, issues a restraining order, and they aren’t going to be able to go back to their house or see their spouse until a judge says it’s OK. This separation can last for weeks.

The next time you’re mad at your spouse or your girlfriend or boyfriend, take a deep breath and think about how you can resolve the issue before calling the police. After all, the police are not mediators.