Recommendations in Dealing with Warrants Amid Domestic Violence Cases

Contributing Author: Tracy M. Prior, San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney, San Diego (CA)

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Photo credit: RomoloTavani / iStock

Simply put, discouraging warrants to compel domestic violence victims to court is the best practice for providing the best trauma-informed treatment of victims. Even further, prosecutorial agencies should adopt protocols and policies that address the compulsion of victims to court and think through the scenario that may happen when warrants are issued for domestic violence victims. Prosecutor offices are strongly encouraged to require approval from the elected District Attorney or a high supervisory level employee prior to requesting a warrant for a domestic violence victim.

There are many things prosecutors can do short of asking that a warrant be issued for a domestic violence victim’s failure to appear:

“Did you want to be here today?”

”Isn’t it true you love [the accused?] and still want to live with [the accused?]”

”The only reason you are here today is because you got a court order to be here, correct?”

”You want [the accused] to know you still love him/her, correct.”

”And you didn’t even report this abuse to the police correct?”

Will you tell the truth here today even though you don’t want to be here?”

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In the end, domestic violence cases must stand independent of victims. If we require the victim’s testimony in order to prove the case, perhaps we should not have issued, charged, or filed it. This is the essence of evidence-based prosecution that is continually reinforced as best practices nationwide.

Specially trained prosecutors know to build their case around a victim, not further burden a victim by compelling them to court. Survivors of domestic violence already have the weight of the world on their shoulders — we owe it to them to use every tool possible to best balance their protection with the advancement of our case.

The National Domestic Violence Prosecution Best Practices Guide is a living document highlighting current best practices in the prosecution of domestic violence. This guide was revised by NDAA’s Women Prosecutors Section on June 23, 2020.

This is part two of a two-part blog series during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In case you missed it, check out part one here.

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The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) is the oldest and largest national organization representing state and local prosecutors in the country.

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