When Battered Women Are Arrested

Battered women who have been arrested face extremely difficult choices and are often given poor or incomplete information and advice when they are arrested.

Retaliation and Manipulation

A police officer who batters can use arrest as a powerful control tactic. Your abuser may be able to manipulate the responding officers into arresting you by claiming that you assaulted him. Responding officers may not listen to your account of the incident nor believe you were acting in self-defense. Your abuser fully understands the impact that arrest has on a person — physically, emotionally and financially. He knows that after your arrest, people in the system will consider you as the perpetrator. An arrest puts you at increased risk and poses serious problems:

During the time between your arrest and the trial, your abuser may increase his physical or emotional abuse and/or coerce you into complying with various demands. Some women just want to get the legal process over quickly so they can return home to their children. Unfortunately, they may make statements to the police or participate in early hearings without the benefit of defense counsel. Or their defense attorney fails to fully explore all possible defenses. Refusing to accept a plea gives you an opportunity to be acquitted, but it does prolong the legal process.

Remember that you have a right to remain silent!

Plea Bargain Can Result in a Criminal Record

If you are charged with a crime, you need to know the possible impact of pleading guilty or negotiating a plea. No one may have warned you about the potential long-term consequences of being convicted as a result of a trial or a plea bargain:

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An Important Note

Despite the many potential downsides of accepting a plea bargains, the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women (NCDBW) does not believe that plea bargains are bad for all women. Taking a plea may absolutely be in your best interests. Each situation requires an individualized assessment. You and your defense attorney must examine and weigh all the advantages and downsides of any option — be it taking a plea, accepting a deferral, or going to trial.

NCDBW has expertise in the issues facing victims of domestic violence who are charged with crimes and/or incarcerated. Advocates, victims and attorneys can obtain technical assistance and advice from NCDBW.


Suggest that your advocate and defense attorneys contact the National Clearinghouse for information and assistance if you have been arrested, are considering a plea, going through a trial, waiting to be sentenced, appealing your case, or are incarcerated.

Advocates, activists & other professionals

Please contact NCDBW if...

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