Prosecution Protocols
last updated August 2013

Prosecution practices and protocols vary widely across all jurisdictions. The policies of the United Kingdom’s Crown Prosecution Service are briefly described to provide an example of the types of considerations in prosecution of domestic violence. Following are links to additional examples in the United States. These represent a small fraction of the protocols and guidelines that have been developed at the state, county, and municipal levels. For additional information on the role of prosecutors, see
Law Enforcement, Prosecution and the Judiciary.
The United Kingdom's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has developed a number of policies to guide its handling of domestic violence cases. The CPS's Statement on the Treatment of Victims and Witnesses governs how prosecutors treat victims and witnesses of violence generally and details the steps that should be taken prior to, during and after trial to ensure that victims and witnesses are treated with consideration and understanding.
The CPS's Domestic Violence Policy[1] deals specifically with the office's policy on domestic violence prosecutions. The Policy acknowledges that because supporting evidence of domestic violence is often lacking, it will often be necessary for victims to testify, and prosecutors have the power to compel testimony should it be required. At the same time, however, the Policy emphasizes that victims will not always be required to testify, should the supporting evidence be sufficient to proceed. Under the Policy, prosecutors are to actively seek out other evidence either to support or as an alternative to the victim's testimony.
If a victim asks that the complaint be withdrawn, the prosecutor's office will assign a prosecutor familiar with domestic violence issues to the case, ascertain whether the request came from the victim or the perpetrator, and if from the victim, undertake a number of steps to determine whether the victim has been threatened or coerced. Before proceeding with the case, prosecutors will also evaluate, together with the police, the risks to the safety of the woman and her children from such prosecution. Should the evidence be sufficient, prosecutors may proceed despite the victim's request. Throughout this process, however, the "safety of the victim, children or any potentially vulnerable person will be a prime consideration" in the decision-making process.
The Policy discusses charging and bail considerations, notes that prosecutors should endeavor to ensure that domestic violence cases are not delayed, and states that prosecutors will attempt to incorporate victim concerns in making decisions in a case. Finally, the Policy notes that prosecutors will take steps to make sure that the victim has made contact with an appropriate support network.
Minnesota: Manual for Prosecution of Domestic Violence (2012), produced by the Minnesota County Attorneys Association and Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.[2]
Washington: Prosecutors’ Domestic Violence Handbook (2012), prepared by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit.[3]
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Prosecutor’s Domestic Abuse Reference Book(2012), published by the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.[4]
Pima County, Arizona:Domestic Violence Protocol (2010), adopted by the Pima County Domestic Violence Task Force.[7]
Additional Resources
Criminal Prosecution of Domestic Violence (1999) discusses why domestic violence should be prosecuted, the goals and challenges of prosecution, and how advocates and prosecutors can work together effectively.[8] 
AEquitas provides support for prosecutors in cases involving violence against women, and develops and refines prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability. AEquitas is a partnership of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Battered Women’s Justice Project.
The National Center for the Prosecution of Domestic Violence (division of the National District Attorneys Association) provides a number of services for prosecutors, including training events and case consultation.
The American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic Violence developed Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking in Civil Protection Order Cases (2007).    

[1] “CPS Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Domestic Violence,” Crown Prosecution Service, accessed August 9, 2013,
[2] Andrew True and Loryn Meloy, Manual for Prosecution of Domestic Violence (2012 ed.), accessed August 9, 2013,
[3] Carrie Hobbs, et al., Prosecutors’ Domestic Violence Handbook (2012), accessed August 9, 2013,
[4] Wisconsin District Attorneys Association, Wisconsin Prosecutor’s Domestic Abuse Reference Book (2d ed., 2012), accessed August 9, 2013,
[5] Supreme Court of the State of N.Y., Appellate Div., First Dep’t., Lawyer’s Manual on Domestic Violence (Jill Laurie Goodman and Dorchen A. Leidholdt, eds., 2006), accessed August 12, 2013,
[6] State of Nevada Advisory Council for Prosecuting Attorneys, Best Practices for Prosecuting Domestic Violence, 2 (2006), accessed August 9, 2013,  
[7] Pima County Domestic Violence Task Force, Domestic Violence Protocol,39 (2010), accessed August 9, 2013,
[8] Linda A McGuire, Criminal Prosecution of Domestic Violence (1999), accessed August 9, 2013,