Mayor John H. Shafer

Domestic Violence Sentencing Enhancement Program

In October, 1996, Surprise City Prosecutor David Ward, in consult with City Attorney Paul Cragan and Justice of the Peace Lex Anderson, decided to break the cycle of domestic violence in their community. They had begun noticing a trend in daily police reports, where the same or similar incidents of abuse were being repeated on a regular basis.

In response, they implemented a plan entitled the Domestic Violence Sentencing Enhancement Program. Under the plan, when a person is arrested in Surprise for domestic abuse, they will automatically spend at least three days in jail. There is no talk of dismissing the charge if the defendant is willing to attend counseling, and no plea bargains to reduce the charge. When a person is arrested and pleads guilty to a domestic abuse assault charge, 27 of the 30 days in jail will be suspended, $500 of the $1,000 fine will be suspended, and the defendant is placed on probation for a year. That judgment sticks only if the defendant completes anger control and domestic violence counseling.

In the event of a second violation, the perpetrator returns to serve out the remaining 27 day jail term and is required to pay the $500 fine remaining from the first violation. There are second violation maximums - another 30 days in jail, $1,000 fine and a year of supervised probation. Statistics from the Surprise police department are promising. In the year before Ward's get-tough policy went into effect, police had a total of 120 arrests for domestic abuse assaults. From July 1995 to July 1997, there were 187 arrests. Surprise Police Chief Garvin Arrell attributes this increase to an awareness on the part of victims that court prosecution of abuse cases is swift and sure, so that they are more likely to come forth to report an assault.

CONTACT: Dave Ward, Assistant City Prosecutor, 12425 W. Bell Road, #A-100, City Hall, Surprise, AZ 85374, Telephone - (602) 583-1000, Fax - (602) 583-1084.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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