The Dropout Problem: Part 1

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Indiana Court Times on 11/20/2015 by Ruth Reichard

A judge presiding over a criminal docket will quickly conclude that family violence cases are different.

In an auto theft case, for example, the victim is usually cooperative: she wants to help the police and prosecutor bring the perpetrator to justice for his crime. But in a case involving family violence—especially intimate partner violence—the victim often recants, or simply does not honor a subpoena to appear in court. Prosecutors know this all too well—one survey of prosecutors in California, Oregon, and Washington revealed that over 90 percent of them believed domestic violence victims were less likely to cooperate with prosecutions.

Another study, conducted in Brooklyn and Milwaukee, cited victims’ failure to appear (or to testify) as the most common reason for dismissals of criminal domestic violence cases. (Tom Lininger, “Prosecuting Batterers After Crawford,” 91 Va. L. Rev. 747 (2005) at 768, 769) Why is this? Explaining the high “dropout” rate in domestic violence cases requires an appreciation of one deceptively simple fact: these are the only criminal cases on our dockets where the victim and defendant often ride to court together in the same car.