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Are Ohio Police Required To Make An Arrest For Every Domestic Violence Call?

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Article by attorney Jim Dearie.  June, 2019.

It is not unusual for families and household members to experience conflict. In most cases, issues can be resolved amicably, but sometimes it is necessary to get law enforcement involved for the safety of one or more members of the household.

However, many people who call the police over domestic disputes are surprised by the consequences of involving law enforcement. Police have the authority to determine if an act domestic violence has taken place and make an arrest based on their evaluation of the incident. An arrest could lead to weeks, months, and even more than a year spent in court trying to resolve the issue.

Police Authority For Domestic Violence Arrests In Ohio

Ohio law gives the police guidelines and broad authority in determining whether an act of domestic violence has occurred once they respond to a call involving a domestic dispute. If the officer believes that serious physical harm or threat of physical harm has occurred to the victim, “the officer shall arrest the offender” who the officer believes to be “the primary physical aggressor”.

Police do not need a warrant to make an arrest in a domestic violence dispute.

Ohio Preferred Arrest For Domestic Violence Cases

Although it is not mandatory for police to make an arrest for every domestic violence call, it is very rare for police to respond to a domestic violence call without arresting one or more of the parties at the scene. It is quite common that the police determine that some violence has occurred and will arrest the person believed to be the primary physical aggressor. However if the police officer believes that violence has been perpetrated by more than one person, multiple arrests are often issued.

Often, police respond to a domestic violence dispute, and find that the person who made the original call has decided against having the alleged offender arrested. However, if the police have determined that there is enough evidence to make a domestic violence charge, they will make an arrest, regardless of whether the parties to the call want to have someone arrested.

Jail Without Bail Until A Hearing Before The Judge

If a police officer has determined that domestic violence has occurred, one or more persons will be arrested and jailed until the accused person or persons can be heard at an initial hearing by a judge. Unlike many other criminal offenses, you will not have a bail set or the opportunity to get out of jail prior to your hearing before the judge. This means that if you are arrested for domestic violence over the weekend, you will likely be in jail for several days before your hearing before a judge.

According to the Enforcement of Domestic Violence Statutes document released by the Cleveland Division of Police, in making a determination about whom to arrest in a domestic violence incident, in addition to any other relevant circumstances, a police officer is to also consider:

  • “Any history of domestic violence or of any other violent acts by either person involved in the alleged offense that the officer reasonably can ascertain;
  • Whether any alleged violence was caused by a person acting in self-defense;
  • Each person’s fear of physical harm, if any, resulting from the other person’s threatened use of force against any person or resulting from the other person’s use or history of the use of force against any person, and the reasonableness of that fear;
  • The comparative severity of any injuries suffered by the persons involved in the alleged offense.”

The police officer’s observation of the facts and circumstances of the alleged incident, or from statements by alleged victim of domestic violence, or from statements from witnesses, indicates reason to believe that domestic violence has occurred or that a protection order has been violated.

In My Experience As Attorney For Domestic Violence Charges

I have been representing clients in domestic violence cases in several Ohio counties for many years. I can see the affect the revisions in the law are having and what you can expect if police are called to your home in an alleged domestic violence incident.

Arrest is very likely in domestic violence calls

In Ohio, arrest is not mandatory, but the decision-making authority of the officer is very broad. It is very rare indeed that a police officer arrives to a domestic violence call and decides not to arrest someone at the scene.  More than one person is often arrested at the scene. I have seen the police arrest the person who made the initial call alleging violence of another person.

When arrested, you may feel like you have already been judged guilty

Once it has been determined that you were the primary physical aggressor in a domestic dispute, you are immediately arrested in put in jail. This is the state of the law in Ohio at this time, and it can really make you feel like you are being held unfairly before being able to have your day in Court.

Domestic Violence arrests are not just for men

It used to be very common for a scuffle between a man and a woman that the man would be arrested. I see women arrested more often than I used to, and I see both parties arrested more often as well. Also, domestic violence arrests used to be almost exclusively between spouses. Because of the evolution of the domestic violence laws, and revisions to the definition of “family or household member,” domestic violence cases can be between family members who are not spouses or living as spouses, such as siblings or non family members living in the same household.

Alleged victims usually cannot recant

Once a domestic violence call has been made, and police have determined that an arrest is appropriate, the state will not withdraw charges even if the alleged victim recants or decides he/she no longer wishes to pursue charges.

I have had it happen numerous times for clients of mine, that police have been called to help out in a domestic scuffle. Most often someone ends up arrested, even if that was not the original intent of the person who called the police. The people calling the police were hoping that law enforcement could simply arrive and act as intercessors or intervene to calm people down. However, on arrival, the police often determine that an act of violence or a threat of violence had occurred, or that a protection order has been violated, and someone ends up arrested.

Sometimes the police are called because a household member is threatening self harm. If the police have determined that the person also threatened or acted out harmful actions against others in the process, that person could be arrested, whether or not the other members of the household want the arrest to take place.


Police are not required to make an arrest in every domestic violence call, but Ohio statute give cities, counties, and other political entities broad authority in determining the necessity for making an arrest in the event that there is reason to believe that domestic violence occurred. This can result in arrests and charges for minor domestic disputes in which neither the accused nor the alleged victim believe that prosecution is necessary. This happens more often than you think.

If You Are Charged With Domestic Violence In Warren County, Butler County, Montgomery County, Or Greene County

The attorneys at Dearie, Fischer & Martinson LLC, know that good people sometimes get arrested as result of domestic disputes. If you have been charged in any kind of domestic case, give us a call. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing clients in domestic violence cases. We are familiar with the local Court and will help you get the best result in negotiations with the prosecutor or at trial.

Every Domestic Violence Case Is Unique. Call Us To Discuss your case.

Call our Lebanon Office, for charges in Warren County, Butler County, Hamilton County, and Clinton County at our office.

In Beavercreek, Montgomery County, Greene County, and greater Dayton, email us.

We answer all calls unless we are in Court or with a client. If you leave a message with us, we will return your call within the hour.

Our experienced attorneys will make sure that your rights are protected, and that you get the best result for your case.