The Domestic Violence Pre-Sentencing Investigation
Webinar Focus (0:22)
- Domestic Violence Pre-Sentencing Investigation Best Practices
Resource Speakers (00:27)
Member, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress-Certified in DV, Allegany County Probation Department
- 12 years working as a probation officer, specializing in Domestic Violence
- Investigates DV offenders
- Facilitates DV offender groups
- Trained as a domestic violence instructor through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, US-DHS
- Part of the DV and Sex Assault team
- Member, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress-Certified in DV, Allegany County Probation Department
- Be able to identify specific characteristics of offenders/victims and challenges with each
Become familiar with APPA Guidelines regarding PSI’s
- Referencing American Probation and Parole Association’s guidelines on investigations, specifically Chapter 7
- Gain knowledge regarding specific lines of questioning in these interviews
- Become familiar with specialized assessments for domestic violence
Who is Who? (07:52)
Typical Characteristics of the Perpetrator
- Extremely Jealous
- Rigid Gender Roles
- Quick Involvement
- Easily agitated/Aggressive
- Blames/Justifies/Rationalizes/Denies Abuse
- Plays the Victim
Typical Characteristics of the Victim
- Isolated-Little/No Supports
- Low/No Self-Esteem
- Defends Abuser/Blames Self
- Distrustful of System
- Excuses Abuse/Minimizes Abuse
- Does not view self as a victim
- Completely dependent on abuser
- Recants/Changes story
- The list isn’t exhaustive, but these characteristics matter to the Pre-Sentencing Investigation (PSI) to understand the case
- Active listening
- Read between the lines
- Be aware of own internal judgment and biases
Use the power and control wheel as a guide to identify tactics used
- Allows recognition of behaviors
- Allows identification of potential traumas
We’re not immune to pollution
- Offenders will use these tactics to officers
- Offender will do what it takes to make officers bend to their will and get them on their side
- Offenders will try to elicit judgment and put blame on the victim
When working with victims
- Victims know their situation better than others do, they live it every day
APPA Guidelines (14:02)
Guideline 5: A consistent, thorough prerelease, presentence or intake investigation is conducted in all cases of intimate partner domestic violence
- The more information in reports the better
- In-depth interviewing and information gathering
- Establish pattern, contacts, relationship and dynamic
Guideline 6: Use effective interviewing strategies appropriate for each person involved in a case
- Motivational interviewing for domestic violence
- Forensic experiential trauma interviewing
Guideline 7: Identify and investigate the presence of known risk factors for domestic violence re-abuse and danger
A full list of potential risk factors
The greatest risk factor of ongoing DV is past DV
- History of DV arrest
- Orders of protection
- Domestic incident report filed
DV PSIs as potential homicide
- Strong link to intimate partner homicide in DV
- Situations can escalate at any given moment
- Aids in supervision
- The greatest risk factor of ongoing DV is past DV
Serves as red flags
- Unemployment is a high indicator for DV
- History of DV
- Childhood domestic violence witness/victims
- Substance abuse
- History of mental illness
- Ordered in a DV program and failed/did not complete
Anything related to firearms
DV is a driving factor for gun-related violence
- 54% of shooters had shot and killed intimate partners
- 34% of shooters are prohibited to use weapons
Make inquiries about firearms in the house
- How many?
- Locked up?
- Access to a firearm?
- Firearm permit?
- DV is a driving factor for gun-related violence
- Threats to murder/suicide
- Top red-flags
- A full list of potential risk factors
Guideline 9: If a standard risk assessment instrument is used…protocols are in place to override scores based on the presence of domestic violence risk factors that indicate higher risk
- Specialized DV risk assessment that requires certification to administer
Breakdown of the PSI (21:35)
- New York State Policy Model on the investigation of DV offenders
Analysis of Legal History
A snapshot of the DV Criminal History
- How many arrests in DV related crimes?
- How many convictions?
- Any indication of stalking history
- Any protective orders?
- Level of compliance if under supervision before?
- Current release status
- Jail days credited
A snapshot of Domestic Incident Report (DIR) history
- How many filed?
- How many victims?
- See pattern
(Order Protection) OOP history (cleared, expired, current)
- Types of allegation
- How many orders cleared, expired, withdrawn?
- How many victims?
CPS history/Family Court history
- How many reports specific to DV?
- How many neglects?
- Status of custody, visitation, and support
- Order Protection
- Where did the firearm go to?
- A snapshot of the DV Criminal History
Description of Present Offence
Arrest Report / DIR
- Specific behaviors
- Summary of statements
911 Calls / Other audios/photos
- Describing environment
- Accusatory Instruments
- Arrest Report / DIR
- Case Records
Offender Interview (28:57)
- Details, details, details
Sit back and listen, don’t feel the need to jump in if he's telling stories
- They’ll give details they don’t intentionally mean to give you
- They may implicate themselves with what they’re saying
- Excuses for allegations
Keep the Police report close by
- Go over the offender statements
- Confront discrepancies
- Take note of body language on the potential level of denial the offender is in
- Circle back, let him talk about something else, he might end up give you something you don’t have before
- Read victims’ statement and notice pushback, rationalization, minimizing, and blaming
Use active silence, he’ll fill in the blanks
- Offenders love to talk and tell their story
- Use motivational interviewing and open-ended questions
Arresting Officer Statement (33:48)
A pamphlet that outlines the officers’ impressions and perceptions of what was going on when they came on scene
- Demeanor of offender/victim
Observations coming on scene
- Where was the offender?
- Where was the victim?
- Were children present?
- Did anybody talk to the children?
- What did the children say happened?
- Often children were said to be asleep, or not present, but they are witnesses and a great source of information.
- Prior incidents with offender
- Level of potential risk to community
- Level of risk to family
Victim Statement (36:46)
Get to know your Victim’s Advocate (VA)
- Great source of information
- Could be the missing link
Victims are sometimes cooperative, sometimes not
- They don’t always have a good view of the system
- They might have a bad contact with the system initially
- This impacts their ongoing contact
Not being trauma-informed is losing an opportunity to get a clear picture of what the victim is experiencing
- Went through so much that wasn’t reported
- Include unreported incidents in the PSI
- What the court sees is the isolated case, not the pattern
Mental and verbal abuse not taken into consideration.
- Used to groom the victims, control and manipulate them
No victim blaming
- Don’t tell the victim s/he should do something
- Don’t tell the victim s/he needs to participate
Such language must not be expressed in the victim report
- Victim has the right to participate or not in the process
- Victim believes it would be safer that she does not
- Victim is afraid of retaliation or had been retaliated against before
- Victim feels like nobody believed her
- Build trust with the victim and the VA
- Keep better eyes on the offenders we’re supervising
- Victim Impact Statement provides the court of the whole picture
- Acknowledge to the victim that s/he’s courageous for telling his/her story
Let the victim drive the interview
- Take note of First, Worst, and Last
- It’s ok to jump timelines, clarify after
- Ask open-ended, clarifying questions
Provide advocacy information, resources, and referrals
- Go out of your way to make sure the victim is able to tell his/her story
- Assure that you’re there to help, not hinder
Defendant History (43:23)
Get a good idea of where thoughts and beliefs came from
Was there domestic violence in their house?
- Aggression between parents, aggression towards children
- Did the Police or Child Protective Services (CPS) show up in their house?
Not just the current relationship, go back to the first significant relationship
- Meeting, length of relationship, relationship milestones (moving in, engagement, married, etc.)
- DV offenders tend to jump into relationships
- Was there domestic violence in their house?
- Get a good idea of where thoughts and beliefs came from
- Includes military status
- Idea of what their goals were/are
- What they want to do with their lives given the current situation
Physical/ Mental Health Issues
- Last treatment, length of treatment, diagnosis
- Medications, current treatment
- Do they think they have a problem?
- Have they been abusive when sober?
- Physical/mental health issues and/or substance abuse exacerbates problems. Things that might not have escalated quickly may with these factors.
Other Social Circumstances (46:34)
- Past DV Interventions
- Based on offender history
- Based on how offender presented
- Based on victim statement
Detail Willingness to Change
- Takes responsibility for what happened?
- Completely denies the accusations?
- Ambivalent to accusations? Admits to some, denies to some?
- Undergone DV education program/treatment before?
- How did the offender do in the program/treatment?
- Was he signed a release?
- Gauge if the offender found value/learned from the program
Evaluative Analysis and Recommendation (47:57)
- Summarize the full report
Outline the risk/need protective factors
- Include assessment information
- Highest risk factors
Department’s specialized conditions for the population. Includes:
- Electronic monitoring/GPS (especially with history of stalking/harassment/violating orders)
- Batterers program
- Built in order protection – offender cannot intimidate or threaten the victim
- Firearms prohibition/No weapons
- Mandatory treatment
- Releases to be signed
- Ineligibility for early discharge
- Mandatory orders of protection
- Department’s specialized conditions for the population. Includes:
Specialized Questions (50:55)
- Under-reported, victims don’t see it as a serious incident than it truly is
- Strangulation is an attempted homicide
- Terminology issue: strangulation vs. choke
- Has he ever put his hand around your neck?”
When did it start?
- It started in the bedroom, then he started doing it out of the bedroom when he's angry
Descriptive indicators that there was an extreme blockage of blood flow to and from the brain
- What is one-handed or two-handed?
- Was it a chokehold?
Do you remember the position you were in and the position the offender was in?
- Was it done from behind?
- Were you held against the wall?
- Were the forearms over your throat?
Can you describe what that felt like?
- Like head will explode
- Like I was drowning
- Lapse in memory
- Fade in and out of consciousness
What she felt after
- Bowel movement
- What were you thinking while being strangled?
- What made him stop?
Look for evidence/injury
Scratches, bruises, etc.
- The offender will likely show his scratches/bruises, etc.
- While not visible, every time that a strangulation happens there’s a good chance that there also is traumatic brain injury
- Scratches, bruises, etc.
DV Sexual Assault
- Sex assault isn’t forceful, it is coerced
- Victims do not like talking about it
- Speaks to the level of control the offender has on the victim
- Non-verbal expression that offender is not willing to walk away from the relationship
- What happened during the relationship?
- How did it feel in the beginning?
- How did it change?
- Did you feel like you were being watched/followed?
- Did you ever find gifts left for you?
- Came home and things were moved in the house?
- GPS or location apps on your phone
- Accounts hacked, passwords changed
- Messages sent via children visitation
Risk Assessments (58:23)
It’s Time to Talk Model
The most basic risk assessment process is comprised of:
- Evidence (including threats or violence)
Victims own perception of risk
- The victim is the one experiencing the risk first-hand
Your professional judgment
- Use your own judgment: on paper, it might not be high-risk, but in reality, it is
- Override the ‘scoring’
- The most basic risk assessment process is comprised of:
DV Screening Instrument
Risk of re-offense of any DV type of crime
- How imminent is the risk to the victim?
- How imminent is the risk to other people?
- Risk of re-offense of any DV type of crime
- Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA)
- DV Mosaic by Gavin de Becker
- Danger Assessment by Jacquelyn Campbell
- Domestic Violence Survivor Assessment
- Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool (DVSAT)