National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Prosecuting Domestic Violence Cases with Reluctant Victims in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1994-1995 (ICPSR 4409)

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

Officials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, introduced two experiments designed to provide answers to questions of how to deal with victim reluctance in domestic violence cases. Two projects funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) evaluated these Milwaukee domestic violence experiments. The first project examined the effectiveness of a specialized domestic violence court that opened in September 1994. The primary intent of the specialized domestic violence court was to speed up the disposition of cases. The second project examined the impact of a change in the district attorney's (DA's) screening policy that admitted more cases into the special court, which became effective January 1, 1995. The liberalized prosecutorial policy was intended to determine whether arrests that the DA normally rejected for prosecution because victims failed to attend the prosecutor's charging conference could be prosecuted successfully none the less. The researchers collected data from three time periods: (1) prior to September 1994, (2) between September 1994 and January 1995, and (3) post-Janurary 1995. For the first experiment, several samples were selected from court and DA records to assess the impact of the introduction of the special domestic violence court and its impact after the change in the DA's charging policy. These samples of domestic violence cases (court samples) filed by the prosecutor included: (1) 237 cases from Summer 1994, (2) 190 cases from Fall 1994, and (3) 242 cases from Spring 1995. For the second experiment, three additional samples (complaint room samples) were collected of domestic cases declined by the prosecutor to determine how victim attendance at the charging conference and other factors affected the decision to prosecute: (1) 152 cases from Summer 1994, (2) 155 cases from Fall 1994, and (3) 152 cases from Spring 1995. Variables in this dataset include if the case was filed, type of charges, number of prior misdemeanors, number of prior felonies, number of misdemeanors after, number of felonies after, number of felony convictions, number of misdemeanor convictions, number of subpoenas, number of judicial body attachment orders, whether the victim was cooperative, if the victim testified, method of disposition, type of disposition, time to disposition, time to sentencing, sentencing conditions, if the defendant received jail or prison time, if the defendant received probation time, number of months incarcerated, number of months on probation, and several date variables. Additional variables provide the sex of the defendant, the relationship between the defendant and the victim, if the victim was injured, if the victim was intoxicated, and use of a weapon.

Access Notes

  • One or more files in this study are not available for download due to special restrictions ; consult the restrictions note to learn more. You can apply online for access to the data. A login is required to apply for access. (How to apply.)

    A downloadable version of data for this study is available however, certain identifying information in the downloadable version may have been masked or edited to protect respondent privacy. Additional data not included in the downloadable version are available in a restricted version of this data collection. For more information about the differences between the downloadable data and the restricted data for this study, please refer to the codebook notes section of the PDF codebook. Users interested in obtaining restricted data must complete and sign a Restricted Data Use Agreement, describe the research project and data protection plan, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.

Dataset(s)

Dataset
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Study Description

Citation

Davis, Robert C., Barbara E. Smith, and Laura Nickles. PROSECUTING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES WITH RELUCTANT VICTIMS IN MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN, 1994-1995. ICPSR04409-v1. Washington, DC: American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section [producer], 1997. Ann Arbor, MI Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2006-06-08. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR04409.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (94-IJ-CX-0052, 95-IJ-CX-0105)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   case processing, court system, disposition (legal), domestic violence, trial procedures, violence against women

Smallest Geographic Unit:   none

Geographic Coverage:   Milwaukee, United States, Wisconsin

Time Period:  

  • 1994-06--1995-04

Date of Collection:  

  • 1994-09--1995-04

Unit of Observation:   case

Universe:   Domestic violence cases under the jurisdiction of the Milwaukee district attorney's office from Summer 1994 to Spring 1995.

Data Types:   administrative records data

Data Collection Notes:

The projects included interviews with court administrators, judges, prosecution staff, and victims. The interview data are not available as part of this collection.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   In Wisconsin, a 1987 statute made arrests mandatory for misdemeanor domestic violence incidents, resulting in a higher volume of arrests, which likely included cases more difficult to prosecute because of weaker evidence or less willing victims. Official statistics indicate that, immediately after the statute was enacted, as many as 90 percent of domestic violence misdemeanor arrests in Milwaukee were not charged by the district attorney's (DA's) office. By mid-1994 the DA realized that Milwaukee was prosecuting a smaller proportion of domestic arrests than other Wisconsin cities. Officials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, introduced two experiments designed to provide answers to questions of how to deal with victim reluctance in domestic violence cases. Two projects funded by the National Institute of Justice evaluated these Milwaukee domestic violence experiments. The first project examined the effectiveness of a specialized domestic violence court that opened in September 1994. The primary intent of the specialized domestic violence court was to speed up the disposition of cases in order to: (1) reduce backlogs, (2) reduce the amount of time the victim had to change her mind about prosecution, thereby increasing convictions, and (3) reduce opportunities for pretrial violence. The second project examined the impact of a change in the DA's screening policy that admitted more cases into the special court, which became effective January 1, 1995. The liberalized prosecutorial policy was intended to determine whether arrests which the DA normally rejected for prosecution because victims failed to attend the prosecutor's charging conference could be prosecuted successfully nonetheless. To do this, the DA's office jettisoned the requirement that victims come to the complaint room, resulting in a doubling of the number of domestic arrests filed with the court. The second experiment focused on evaluating if it was in the interests of victims and in the interest of justice to open the intake gates wide and prosecute cases previously thought not winnable.

Study Design:   The researchers collected data from three time periods: (1) prior to September 1994, which marked the start of the special domestic violence court, (2) between September 1994 and January 1995, the period after the special court began and before the change in the district attorney's charging policy, and (3) post-January 1995, after the change in the district attorney's charging policy. For the first experiment, several samples were selected from court and DA records to assess the impact of the special domestic violence court. Three samples of domestic violence cases (court samples) filed by the prosecutor were collected: (1) 237 cases from Summer 1994, (2) 190 cases from Fall 1994, and (3) 242 cases from Spring 1995. These samples allowed the researchers to examine how the handling of domestic violence cases changed with the introduction of the special court in September 1994, and how case processing changed again after the DA liberalized his charging policy in January 1995. For the second experiment, three additional samples (complaint room samples) were collected of domestic cases declined by the prosecutor, which were drawn from the same time periods as the samples of prosecuted cases: (1) 152 cases from Summer 1994, (2) 155 cases from Fall 1994, and (3) 152 cases from Spring 1995. The researchers compared the samples of prosecuted and not prosecuted cases to determine how victim attendance at the charging conference and other factors affected the decision to prosecute during the three time periods. Data collection sheets for nolle processed cases were identical to the sheets designed for prosecuted cases except that disposition information was omitted.

Sample:   Originally, the researchers intended to draw two court samples from case records. The baseline sample consisted of domestic violence cases processed in the general misdemeanor courts, prior to the creation of the special domestic violence court. This sample (n = 237) consisted of every other domestic violence case adjudicated in the general misdemeanor courts during June, July, and August 1994. Only cases with odd docket numbers were sampled. Cases were those identified by the prosecutor's office as involving domestic violence, including batteries, disorderly conducts, and violations of restraining orders in which the parties were married, cohabitating, shared children in common, or were blood relatives living in the same household. The post-special court sample consisted of cases that began shortly after the opening of the special domestic violence court. This sample (n = 190) was comprised of every other domestic violence case with initial pretrial hearings held during October, November, and December 1994. The reseachers decided to draw a third sample after the prosecutor changed his charging policy after January 1995. This sample (n = 242) consisted of every trial case scheduled for an initial pretrial hearing in the domestic violence court during February, March, and April 1995. Three complaint room samples of cases were collected for the same time periods. The researchers sampled every other case in chronological sequence, including cases declined by the prosecutor during June, July, and August 1994 (n = 157), cases declined by the prosecutor during October, November, and December 1994 (n = 155), and cases declined by the prosecutor during January, February, and March 1995 (n = 152).

Mode of Data Collection:   record abstracts

Data Source:

Data were collected from court and district attorney administrative records.

Description of Variables:   Variables in this dataset include type of sample, if the case was filed, type of charges filed against the batterer, number of prior misdemeanors, number of prior felonies, number of misdemeanors after, number of felonies after, number of felony convictions, number of misdemeanor convictions, number of subpoenas, number of judicial body attachment orders, whether the victim was cooperative, if the victim testified, method of disposition (trial, dismissed, guilty plea, diversion, other), type of disposition, time to disposition, time to sentencing, sentencing conditions, if the defendant received jail or prison time, if the defendant received probation time, number of months incarcerated, number of months on probation, and several date variables. Additional variables provide the sex of the defendant, the relationship between the defendant and the victim, if the victim was injured (none, minor, major), if the victim was intoxicated, and use of a weapon (no, gun, knife, other).

Response Rates:   Not applicable.

Presence of Common Scales:   none

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

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