Reporting Domestic Violence to Law Enforcement

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, police intervention can be life-saving and may be part of your safety plan.  The following information may assist you in feeling prepared whether you choose to call 911 or if police are summoned by someone else.  You know your situation best; these tips are not meant to apply to every situation, rather offer helpful information to consider.  

Tips and considerations for talking with responding officers:

  • The primary duty of officers, when responding to a domestic violence situation, is to enforce the laws allegedly violated and to protect the complaining party.
  • Officers may ask you specific questions to better understand the nature of the relationship, your living situation, and the incident that you are reporting. 
  • If your abusive partner is present, tell them you want to be interviewed separately.
  • If you have been injured, show them any injuries on your body. Injuries may take time to show up. If you see a mark after the officers leave, call them back to take pictures. (The pictures may be used in court.)
  • If your partner threatened you, tell them how they threatened you and if there was a witness. Try not to minimize your fear; if you are afraid your partner will hurt or kill you, tell the officers.  
  • If your abusive partner has broken any property, show the officers.
  • If you have photos, text messages, emails or other evidence of the abuse you've experienced, show the officers.
  • Tell the officers about any firearms your partner may own, and/or if your partner has threatened, harassed or injured you (or someone else) previously with a firearm.
  • The following information can help police officers determine what kind of crime has occurred and the possible lethality risk factors:
    • your partner has warrants
    • your partner uses an alias and you know their real name
    • your partner has a weapon such as a gun or a knife; or your partner has strangled/choked you
    • your partner has threatened to harm him/herself or others.
  • The officers must make a report stating what has occurred. This report can be used in court if your partner is charged with a crime.
  • Write down the officers' names, and the General Offense number of your case.
  • Ask the officer if you can speak with the Victim Support Team
  • If they are not available to respond, you may call them to request a follow-up phone call.
  • Officers will give you a "Seattle Police Domestic Violence Information and Resource Guide" that offers helpful information about the next steps in the criminal investigation and community resources.   

Mandatory Arrest

  • The state law requires a responding officer to make an arrest if there is probable cause that a DV assault or other serious DV offense was committed within the previous four hours.
  • State law also requires mandatory arrest for violations of No Contact Orders and Civil Protection Orders.
  •  If the officer determines that family or household members have assaulted each other, the officer will arrest only the person he or she believes to be the primary aggressor.
  • A person arrested for a domestic violence offense will usually be held in jail until he/she appears before a judge, usually the following day.
  • The Court may require a defendant charged with domestic violence to sign a No Contact Order as a condition for release.
  • A violation of the No Contact Order is a crime. It is the defendant's responsibility to abide by the No Contact Order. Even if you invite contact, the defendant could be arrested and charged with additional crimes.
  • To report a violation, call 911 immediately.