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NC police experiment with new domestic violence evaluative tool

Domestic abuse in North Carolina, as elsewhere, is a two-sided subject. On the one hand, there is no question in many instances that a victim has been injured --- sometimes fatally -- by abuse. On the other hand, it sometimes turns out to be the case that a domestic violence allegation has been made to influence a family law matter, such as a pending divorce or child custody case, with no factual basis to support it.

Allegations of domestic violence are always serious matters, whatever the cause or underlying truth, and failure to promptly and carefully investigate them serves to disservice all involved parties.

Law enforcement officials, advocacy groups, prosecutors and experienced criminal defense attorneys in North Carolina know that well. They uniformly agree that a domestic abuse claim is no trivial matter and that it needs to be thoroughly examined in order for investigators to reach an accurate conclusion and take appropriate next steps.

That is precisely the reason why select police departments in the state are availing themselves of a new evaluative tool for assessing the danger in a home environment and the role they should properly play when responding to an abuse allegation.

That tool is a so-called "question-and-answer protocol" entitled the Lethality Assessment Program. It operates as a questionnaire with 11 specific inquiries that a responding officer poses to a person who has called for help. Affirmative answers to certain questions -- or to a threshold number of inquiries -- result in a referral to a domestic violence counselor. Although that referral is merely a recommendation, not a mandate, it has led to calls in a majority of cases.

By its very nature, domestic violence is a sad and sensitive topic. Victims obviously need strong and immediate protections, but so too do accused persons.

Media accounts clearly indicate that false allegations of domestic abuse are from being singular events. Owing to that reality, every person who has been arrested for domestic violence or is facing an abuse-related criminal charge needs strong assistance from a proven domestic violence defense attorney.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "NC police have new tool for domestic violence," Associated Press, April 7, 2014

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