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Do officers have to arrest someone for a domestic violence call?

Along with injury- and illness-related calls, 911 operators routinely have to address requests for police assistance during domestic disputes. In fact, in 2019 alone, officers responded to more than 100,000 domestic violence calls.

While it may not be a public policy, many officers in the Sunshine State believe that going to a domestic violence call means someone is going to jail. This, of course, is a misinterpretation of what the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires for an arrest.

Unreasonable searches and seizures

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. An arrest is a type of seizure. With few exceptions, to support an arrest, officers must have probable cause someone committed some sort of crime. If officers lack probable cause, the arrest may not pass legal muster.

A responsible investigation

Naturally, not every domestic violence call is evidence of domestic violence. After all, during a heated argument, one party may decide to call the police and escalate the disagreement. Consequently, officers should conduct a responsible investigation to determine whether unlawful domestic violence has occurred.

During the investigation, officers typically must interview all parties. They should also look for signs of physical violence, such as bruises, lacerations or red marks. If the investigation does not uncover sufficient evidence to support an arrest, officers should not make one.

Officers unlawfully arrest Floridians following domestic violence calls more frequently than you may think. Ultimately, those who become victims of wrongful arrest may have a valid defense strategy or another cause of action to pursue.

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