Dual Arrests for Intimate Partner Violence

Dual Arrest Changes: Is the Landscape Altered Regarding the Legacy of Tracey Thurman and Intimate Partner Violence in Connecticut?


One of my most popular blogs over the years has been about the landmark case of the former Tracey Thurman, now re-married and living in another state. You may read the original post about Tracey Thurman for background information about her case and how she was able to change legislation to better protect victims of abuse.

In June 1983, during her final beating, Tracey was near death by the time police responded and received major injuries including 13 stab wounds and a broken neck.

In my original article, my intention was to portray a blue collar town juxtaposed against the courageous actions of Tracey’s attorneys and the utter failure of a police department. This case changed the landscape forever in Connecticut and became the model for other states.  

Following the law suit in which she sued the City of Torrington, Connecticut, and the police department, for violating her civil rights, she was awarded $2.3 million dollars. Finally, many other states took the crime of domestic violence seriously for the first time.

 Arrests were now based on probable cause, not whether the involved parties wanted to press charges or not. As a result, in one short year after the new Connecticut law was passed, the number of domestic violence assaults reported increased by 92% and domestic assault arrests doubled from 12,400 arrests to 23,830.

It also became common for both parties to be arrested and sort it out later if abuse was apparent to officers on the scene.


According to Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence – 2016

  • 1,092 Victims Served in One Day
  • 378 domestic violence victims found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs.
  • 714 adults and children received non-residential assistance and services, including counseling, legal advocacy, and children’s support groups.
  • 282 Hotline Calls Answered Domestic violence hotlines are a lifeline for victims in danger, providing support, information, safety planning, and resources. In the 24-hour survey period, local and state hotline staff answered 282 calls, averaging 12 hotline calls every hour.
  • Across Connecticut, 10 staff positions were eliminated in the past year.(2016)  Many (43%) of these positions were for direct services such as shelter staff. This means there were fewer staff to answer calls for help or provide needed services.

With the current financial crisis in Connecticut  in 2018, I would estimate that staffing and services are curtailed even more.

The Problem as Seen by IPV Advocates- Has the Pendulum Swung Too Far?

Nationally, both parties in a domestic violence situation are arrested seven percent of the time when police intervene compared to 20 percent in Connecticut.

Under prior law, when two or more opposing parties made complaints of family violence, the peace officer had to evaluate each complaint separately to determine whether to make an arrest or seek an arrest warrant. If the officer determined that a family violence crime had been committed, the officer had to arrest the alleged perpetrator and charge the person with the appropriate crime.  However, the officer was not required to arrest someone who used force in self defense.


SUMMARY: This act requires a peace officer, in responding to a family violence complaint made by two or more opposing parties, to arrest the person the officer believes is the dominant aggressor. The act does not prohibit dual arrests, but discourages it when appropriate. It does not apply to (1) college and university students who live together in on-campus housing and (2) tenants who live together in a residential rental property, who are not in a dating relationship.

Under the act, a dominant aggressor is the person who poses the most serious ongoing threat in a situation involving a suspected family violence crime.

The act also:

1)establishes the factors a peace officer must consider in determining which person is the dominant aggressor,

2) allows the officer to submit a report to the state’s attorney for further review and advice on the conduct of the person or persons not arrested,

3) gives the officer immunity from civil liability based on such determinations under (1) or (2).

4) It expands certain police and state’s attorneys’ training programs to include training on the factors for determining a dominant aggressor in a family violence case.

5) It also allows (1) an entity representing the statewide domestic violence coalition to assist with the training curriculum and (2) certain domestic violence agencies to conduct training.

It also makes technical and conforming changes. 

The act requires the peace officer, in determining the dominant aggressor, to consider:

  • the need to protect domestic violence victims;
  • whether one person acted in self-defense or to defend a third person;
  • the relative degree of any injury;
  • threats creating fear of physical injury; and
  • any history of family violence between the people involved, if it can
  • reasonably be obtained by the peace officer.

Conclusion-  My opinion-

No matter how you slice it, dual arrests, and determining the dominant aggressor in the middle of a volatile situation remains a crap shoot.

You can legislate a ham sandwich, but the real question becomes, is the safety of  victims improved and will they be treated with fairness?

What would Tracey Thurman say? What would Susan Murphy-Milano say?

I so wish I could ask both of them….

Donna R. Gore

If  you need assistance with writing a professional Victim Impact Statement, please refer to the Victim Impact Statement FAQ’s on this site.

To schedule a presentation with me at your future event or  conference please contact:

ImaginePublicity,  Telephone: 843.808.0859  Email:  contact@imaginepublicity.com


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