Millions of people fall victim to domestic abuse in the U.S. each year. Partners at Friedman, Grimes, Meinken & Leischner PLLC discuss Virginia’s shall arrest statute on this week’s FAQ Friday.

What is the Shall Arrest statute?

The law states that when the police are called to a residence and there is probable cause that an act of domestic violence has occurred, they shall arrest the primary physical aggressor. This statute does not apply in other cases like DUI, larceny, or drug charges, as the police can choose whether or not to make an arrest.

The shall arrest statute came out of the idea that you had situations where a truly abused person would call the police because they were in fear, being attacked and wanted help right then and there. But when the police arrive, the victim would tell them that they didn’t want to press charges because of the nature of domestic violence and abuse. This not only perpetuates the horrific cycle of abuse for the victim but also means the police must respond to domestic violence calls time and time again without making an arrest.

How Do The Police Determine Who Is The Primary Physical Aggressor?

Often, the police often determine who the primary physical aggressor is based on physical marks, like scratches or bruises, on the alleged “victim’s” body. However, she says the “Shall Arrest” statute does not  Once the police have made an arrest, the accused goes before the magistrate, who decides whether or not to issue a bond.

Because this situation is typically seen as a misdemeanor offense, the magistrate often issues an unsecured or low secured bond.

What Factors Do Judges Consider When Determining A Bond?

Some factors the magistrate takes into consideration when determining bond include:

  • Whether the person is under the influence of alcohol
  • Whether the person is employed
  • If the person has somewhere to go
  • How the person interacted with the police at the time of the arrest (were they confrontational, aggressive, or violent?)

Emergency Protective Orders

The magistrate can also issue an Emergency Protective Order (EPO), which prohibits the primary physical aggressor from committing acts of family abuse and typically from having any contact with the victim for 72 hours following the issuance. This means they are not allowed to go to the house the victim resides in, call them, Tweet at them, Facebook message them; nor are they allowed to send a message through a third party. From there, the victim has the option to extend the EPO through the court system from between 15 days to 2 years.

When to speak to an attorney

 If you or your children have been a victim of domestic violence, Old Town Lawyers can help you obtain a Protection Order for your safety. Please contact us for a confidential consultation right away if you face issues of domestic violence.

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