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When the Perpetrator Is a Partner: Arrest and Charging Decisions in Intimate Partner Sexual Assault Cases-A Focal Concerns Analysis

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 23 Issue: 6 Dated: 2017 Pages: 707-729
Eryn N. O'Neal; Cassia Spohn
Date Published
23 pages

Using the focal concerns perspective as a theoretical foundation, this study examined the factors that influence arrest and charging decisions in intimate partner sexual assaults (IPSA) reported to Los Angeles law enforcement in 2008.


Quantitative findings were supplemented with qualitative examples from Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detectives interviewed in 2010 and charge evaluation sheets from complaints referred for prosecution in 2008. Attempting to expand its theoretical relevance, the study developed an alternative conceptualization and operationalization of the focal-concerns perspective that is more appropriate to IPSA cases. The findings suggest that arrest decisions were motivated by suspect blameworthiness, community protection, practical constraints, and organizational consequences. In addition, charging decisions were influenced by community protection and practical constraints. Extralegal factors did not influence decisionmaking. Directions for future research are discussed. (Publisher abstract modified)