Cases involving alleged domestic violence are among the most complicated and often confusing that can be brought to the courts in Ohio. That can be especially true if the violence erupts out of issues related to a divorce or child custody dispute. The reasons are many.
To begin with, it doesn't take much to spark an arrest for possible domestic violence. The Ohio criminal code makes clear that police have broad authority to arrest individuals in such cases. And one of the factors that they can cite for taking action is the mere expression of fear of physical harm by one or the other party involved.
The code suggests the existence of just that one condition shouldn't be the only factor considered when authorities are deciding how to proceed, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
There is no intention in this observation to suggest that domestic violence crimes are over-enforced. Victims of violence and abuse deserve to have confidence that they are protected under the law. But in light of the how easy it can be to spark such a charge, it is equally important for those accused to know that they are entitled to a strong legal defense of their rights.
The specifics of the Ohio legal code put the issue in the context of what's called a preferred arrest. That means that when police are called to respond to alleged domestic violence, they have the power to arrest both individuals if they want. But the code says they should lean toward taking into custody only the one they consider to be the primary physical aggressor.
Factors, besides expressed fear of harm, they are supposed to consider include:
- Any history either party might have of domestic violence
- Whether they think one or the other of the individuals was driven to act in self defense
- Comparing the severity of injuries the individuals appear to have suffered
This puts officers in a position of having to effectively exercise judgment before any charge has been filed or trial held. And that only reinforces that a person charged should be contacting an attorney.