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Note - When the Consequences Are Life and Death: Pretrial Detention for Domestic Violence Offenders


Domestic violence continues to be a critical societal issue that requires immediate attention, affecting one in three women in her lifetime. The main domestic abuse interventions in place—mandatory arrest policies, no-drop prosecution policies, and mandatory medical reporting—are salutary in their overall effects, but leave a gap in protection after the defendant is arrested and before he or she is prosecuted. During this time, the defendant may be free to pursue his or her victim. This Note proposes an underconsidered intervention: pretrial detention or denial of bail for serious domestic violence offenders. Research indicates that the risk of violence is greatest when the abused individual is attempting to leave an abusive partner, which is likely to occur during the gap left by mandatory arrest and mandatory prosecution policies. Offenders have also been shown likely to violate protective orders. Bail reform could address this lethal break in protection. Several states have policies that contemplate pretrial detention for domestic violence offenders. This Note will propose legislation that provides a model for pretrial detention statutes for domestic violence offenders nationwide. Pretrial detention hearings should also be made mandatory in domestic violence cases that meet a certain number of risk factors for severe violence.