Wisconsin’s Mandatory Arrest Law in Domestic Violence Cases


In Wisconsin, a person commits the crime of domestic abuse by committing battery, inflicting pain or fear, or sexually assaulting a person in his or her family or household.  It is also a crime in Wisconsin to violate the terms of a restraining order.  Under Wisconsin law, special rules and procedures apply to domestic violence crimes.  Wis. Stat. § 939.621.

When victims and defendants are involved in a “he said, she said” incident, the credibility of the parties is essential to not only a good prosecution but also to a good defense.

It is imperative to note that Wisconsin has a mandatory arrest law under certain circumstances. Under section 968.075, law enforcement officers are required to make an arrest in domestic violence incidents when certain criteria are met, such as:

  • The intentional infliction of physical pain, physical injury, or illness; or impairment of physical condition;
  • First-, Second-, or Third-Degree Sexual Assault; and/or
  • Any physical act that may cause the other person to reasonably fear physical or sexual assault.

As such, under section 968.075, a law enforcement officer shall arrest and take a person into custody if (1) the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person is committing or has committed domestic abuse and the person’s actions constitute the commission of a crime; and (2) any of the following apply: (a) the officer has a reasonable basis for believing that continued domestic abuse against the alleged victim is likely; (b) there is evidence of physical injury to the alleged victim; or (c) the person is the predominant aggressor.  Even if the person who called 9-1-1 recants his or her allegation, exhibits no signs of injury, or begs the police not to arrest, police will make an arrest.

In domestic violence cases, the prosecution’s role is vital.  Prosecutors are engaged in a volume business, and they must be able to make a sound and speedy determination regarding whether the facts alleged against a party rise to the level of probable cause necessary for a criminal complaint.  With that fact in mind, the prosecutor has to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge a case.  If the defendant decides to fight the charge, the prosecutor’s task is to prove that the suspect has committed domestic violence beyond a reasonable doubt.  Therefore, if you are the victim or have been accused of domestic violence, you may want to consult an attorney to discuss your rights.

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