The Domestic Violence Pre-Sentencing Investigation: Webinar Notes

The Domestic Violence Pre-Sentencing Investigation

 

Webinar Focus (0:22)

  • Domestic Violence Pre-Sentencing Investigation Best Practices

 

Resource Speakers (00:27)

  • Sara Mahoney

    • 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

 

Objective (06:59)

  • 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

    • Manipulative
    • Entitled
    • Extremely Jealous
    • Controlling
    • Rigid Gender Roles
    • Quick Involvement
    • Self-Centered
    • Easily agitated/Aggressive
    • Argumentative
    • Blames/Justifies/Rationalizes/Denies Abuse
    • Plays the Victim
  • Typical Characteristics of the Victim

    • Afraid/Anxious
    • 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
    • Ashamed/Guilty
    • Completely dependent on abuser
    • Recants/Changes story
  • Remember

    • 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
    • Serves as red flags

      • Top 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?
        • Threats to murder/suicide
  • 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
    • Firearms

      • Removals
      • Order Protection
      • Where did the firearm go to?
  • Description of Present Offence

    • Case Records

      • Arrest Report / DIR

        • Specific behaviors
      • Depositions
      • Witness Statements

        • Summary of statements
      • 911 Calls / Other audios/photos

        • Describing environment
      • Accusatory Instruments

 

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?
    • Children

      • 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

      • “Uncooperative”

        • 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)

  • Family/ Relationships

    • 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
  • Education/ Employment

    • 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
  • Substance Abuse

    • 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
  • Specify Patterns

    • 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
  • Recommendation

    • 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

 

Specialized Questions (50:55)

  • Strangulation Cases

    • 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
    • Ask:

      • 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
          • Vomiting
        • 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
  • DV Sexual Assault

    • Under-reported

      • 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
  • Stalking

    • Non-verbal expression that offender is not willing to walk away from the relationship
    • Ask:

      • 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’
  • 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?
  • 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)
Additional Resources
7 months ago
The Domestic Violence Pre-Sentencing Investigation: From Start to Finish
Domestic violence is a widespread problem for both law enforcement and public health. Unfortunate […]
9 months ago
The Domestic Violence Pre-Sentencing Investigation: An Interview with Sara Mahoney
Domestic Violence offenders are unique: their chosen victims are those closest to him or her.&nbs […]
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