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Hawaii's Domestic Violence Arrest Policy

Domestic violence laws vary widely from state to state. Based on their domestic violence arrest statutes, states are considered mandatory, preferred, or discretionary arrest states. Hawaii is one of several discretionary arrest states. 

Hawaii has a discretionary arrest provision stating that: "Any police officer, with or without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is physically abusing, or has physically abused, a family or household member and that the person arrested is guilty thereof."

A police officer has wide discretion in making domestic violence arrests. Studies have shown that numerous factors influence whether an alleged offender will be arrested, or whether or both parties will be arrested, which is often called a dual arrest:

  • Arrest rates increased when an alleged offender remained at the scene, which is common when the incident occurs in a residence.
  • Arrest rates also increased when a victim was injured or a minor was present.
  • Gender did not appear to affect arrest rates. However, when there was a female offender, officers were three times more likely to make a dual arrest.
  • Dual arrests were twice as likely when the incident involved intimate partners.

Overall, less than half of domestic violence arrests or citations end in conviction. There are also many factors that influence whether these arrests lead to conviction:

  • If the arrested defendant was white, convictions were 30 percent less likely.
  • Arrests where intimate partners were involved were approximately 70 percent more likely to end in conviction.
  • Arrests were more likely to end in conviction when the accused had been previously arrested or when the victim was injured.

Never assume that a domestic violence conviction is a foregone conclusion. A large percentage of such arrests do not result in convictions. If you have been arrested on domestic violence charges, a Hawaii defense attorney who understands the nuances of the law can provide effective representation to protect your rights.

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