In an effort to combat cases of domestic violence and keep people safe, Colorado has a mandatory arrest law. If the police arrive at a scene of suspected wrongdoing and find probable cause showing that a crime occurred, then they are required to make an arrest. It’s not left up to their discretion.
In some ways, this sounds like it would be a safe approach. If the police officer had the discretion to choose whether or not to make an arrest, they could make a mistake. This could lead to them not arresting someone who needed to be taken in, causing more domestic violence to occur. But while that sounds good in theory, the reality is not always so clear-cut. Some victims claim that there are unintended consequences and severe downsides to this law.
Do officers always arrest the right person?
Perhaps the biggest downside is that some police officers mistake the victim for the perpetrator. This means that they arrest the person who needs to be protected, rather than the person who has committed violence.
There was an example of this where a woman who had three children was looking into getting a divorce from her husband. She had not told him, but he discovered it through her email messages. She claims that he then threatened to kill her and the children, so they escaped the house and locked themselves in the car while they called the police.
However, when the police arrived, they said that her husband had scratches on his skin and that he claimed she was the one who attacked him. Because of the mandatory arrest law, they had to arrest someone, and the woman ended up going to jail. She claims that her husband had scratched himself just to make it look like she was the aggressor. Worse yet, the children in the car did not want to go back into the home with their father, because they feared for their lives. But when the mother was arrested, that’s exactly where the police officers took those children.
Criminal defense options
This example illustrates how the state’s mandatory arrest law could lead to victims being egregiously arrested for crimes committed by others. Those who find themselves facing such accusations need to better understand all of their criminal defense options by seeking legal guidance right away.