Experts believe domestic abuse tends to worsen over time. With that in mind, lawmakers and others in Massachusetts have developed responses to domestic violence that are designed to separate the parties and prevent any further abuse.
One facet of this approach is Massachusetts’ mandatory arrest law.
‘All reasonable means to prevent further abuse’
Under Massachusetts law, police officers who have reason to believe that a household member or family member has been abused or is in danger of being abused must use “all reasonable means to prevent further abuse.”
These means can include staying on the premises until the situation calms down and getting medical attention for those who need it. If the officer has probable cause to believe an abuser has violated a protective order, they must arrest the person.
The mandatory arrest law in domestic violence situations also applies if the officer believes an abuser has committed a felony or a misdemeanor that is related to abuse.
The state’s approach to domestic violence is based on intervention and prevention, and there is evidence that it is effective in stopping abuse before it gets worse. However, it also raises some serious questions about fairness to the accused.
Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, no one should be denied liberty without due process of law. Generally, this means that police need more than a hunch before they can arrest someone. They need probable cause to believe the person has committed a crime.
Seen from the point of view of a person who is wrongfully accused of domestic violence, a mandatory arrest law can seem like a violation of this constitutional principle.
Domestic violence is a serious problem and we all want to stop abusive situations from worsening. However, people who are accused of domestic violence have the right to a defense. Given the sensational nature of these accusations, it is crucial that they seek out skilled help for their defense immediately.