Saturday, January 19, 2013

Current sanction levels for domestic violence offenses in North Carolina do not reduce repeat offenses, according to a study published in the February 2013 edition of the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty.

The study, conducted by Frank Sloan, PhD, and his team of researchers at Duke University, examines how domestic violence cases are resolved in North Carolina, and how current ways of resolving these cases impact repeat offenses. The study finds that a repeat offense is the case for many domestic violence charges in North Carolina.

The researchers report that of those individuals arrested on domestic violence charges, 22 percent were re-arrested; of those prosecuted on domestic violence charges, 24 percent were re-arrested; and of those convicted on domestic violence charges, 25 percent were re-arrested.

The authors cite low prosecution rates and trivial fines as the reasons for this result. The expected fine for misdemeanor category 2 convictions, which includes offenses like assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a child under 12, or breaking and entering, is only about $27.61. Additionally, 38 percent of index arrests (a person’s first arrest for a domestic violence related charge) are prosecuted.

Efforts to combat low prosecution rates, such as the No Drop Policies adopted by many districts, have been unsuccessful. The study finds no significant effect of the No Drop policy on the probability that the case was prosecuted.  Because of this, domestic violence offenders begin to learn from their experiences with the system that they can get away with their actions without facing penalties – and so, many become repeat offenders.

While these results are specific to North Carolina, the researchers contend that the issue of low prosecution rates for domestic violence offenses and low sanctions is not unique to that state.

This research was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research program.

The article is available online:

An interview with study PI Frank Sloan, PhD, can be viewed at:

A one-page Research Brief is also available: