What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior that includes the use or threat of violence and intimidation for the purpose of gaining power and control over another person in order to dominate the other and get his or her way. Signs that a relationship may be abusive include:
  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Economic abuse
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Controlling behavior
  • Minimizing, denying, blaming
Domestic Violence and the Law
In Arizona, domestic violence becomes a crime if the offender commits an illegal act (disorderly conduct or an assault, for example) and if the relationship between victim and offender is one or more of the following:

  • Are married now or were married in the past
  • Live together now or lived together in the past
  • Are now or were previously involved in a romantic or sexual relationship
  • Have a child or children in common, or are expecting a child in common
  • Have a close familial relationship
  • The victim is a child living in the same household as the defendant and is the biological child of the defendant's former spouse or of another person who lives or lived in the same household as the defendant
Domestic Violence Prosecutions Present Unique Challenges
Domestic violence is a crime that affects the entire community and requires the State to prosecute offenders. The Pima County Attorney’s Office is committed to holding offenders accountable for their actions and ensuring that justice is served fairly and swiftly. Unlike the victims of other types of crimes, victims of domestic violence often face unique pressures that may discourage their participation in the criminal prosecution of their offenders.

Victims of domestic violence may be compelled by financial or other circumstances to stay in an unhealthy or abusive relationship and thus may not see the prosecution of their partner as helpful to their particular situation. Sometimes their personal circumstances lead victims to oppose the prosecution of their abusers. Some victims cannot assist prosecutors’ efforts to hold their offenders accountable without placing themselves in jeopardy. These realities can pose significant challenges to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, and probation officers in domestic violence cases.

Domestic Violence Court (Misdemeanors)
Created in March 2007, Domestic Violence Court adjudicates misdemeanor domestic violence cases that are transferred to this specialty division. It handles serious and repeat offenders, with a dual emphasis on victim safety and swift and certain accountability for offenders. A dedicated court team of specially trained judges, attorneys, and victim advocates ensures that defendants are closely monitored, that victims have access to comprehensive services, and that the judge receives the information necessary to make quick and appropriate decisions. The Domestic Violence Court team achieves the following goals:

  • Immediacy: The response to domestic violence is immediate, certain, and consistent. It includes traditional punishment--incarceration and/or probation--as well as mandatory participation in domestic violence treatment programs and strict enforcement of offenders’ release conditions.
  • Safety: Victim safety is enhanced by assigning each case a Victim Advocate who helps victims access community-based resources and assists them to assert their legal rights throughout the criminal justice process.
  • Accountability: Frequent court appearances and intense scrutiny of defendants’ compliance with court orders ensure a prompt response to any violations.
  • Consistency: Defendants are more accountable for their actions because an assigned team knows the complete history of each case.

Vertical Prosecution of Domestic Violence Felonies
To address the unique challenges inherent in prosecuting domestic violence offenses, the Domestic Violence Unit makes early and meaningful contact with victims. When a victim is unable or unwilling to support prosecution, the Unit still works to hold the offender swiftly and fully accountable for his or her criminal acts. Toward that end, the Domestic Violence Unit employs these specific procedures:

  • Felony domestic violence cases are assigned to specially trained Deputy County Attorneys who remain assigned for the duration of the case ("vertical prosecution").
  • Victim advocates are assigned to domestic violence cases as soon as criminal charges are issued. The advocates work alongside prosecutors, helping victims to access the resources they need and to assert their legal rights throughout the criminal justice process.
  • The Unit places particular emphasis on aggressively prosecuting repeat offenders.

Community Collaboration
The Pima County Attorney's Office actively collaborates with community stakeholders in an effort to raise awareness and improve our community's response to domestic violence.

Under the leadership of the County Attorney's Office, the Pima County Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force meets quarterly to address issues related to the prevention, reporting, investigation, prosecution, intervention, and treatment of domestic violence. The Task Force is comprised of representatives from local service agencies, law enforcement agencies, the Adult Probation Department, the Pima County Attorney’s Office, and the Tucson City Attorney's Office.

Lethality Assessment
The Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) is a tool that can help prevent domestic violence homicides, serious injuries, and re-assaults by encouraging more domestic violence victims to use the shelters, counseling, advocacy, and support services of domestic violence programs. Studies have shown that these supportive services can save lives and reduce re-assaults, yet such programs continue to be underutilized by victims.

The Pima County Attorney's Victim Services Division, along with six of the smaller law enforcement agencies in Pima County, have begun to incorporate this protocol when responding to domestic violence calls. The process involves a simple, 11-question lethality screening tool and an accompanying response-and-referral protocol. The Victim Services Division uses this tool whenever advocates assist a victim at the scene of a crisis call following an act of domestic violence between intimate partners.

If the result of the lethality screening shows the victim to be in "high danger," the advocate will immediately telephone the local 24-hour domestic violence hotline (Emerge! Center against Domestic Abuse) to arrange a follow-up appointment and will encourage the victim to speak with the hotline worker as well. Hotline workers trained in the Lethality Assessment Protocol use special guidelines to engage and communicate with victims who have not yet recognized the seriousness of their situations, to familiarize them with available program services.

Fatality Review Team
The Pima County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team was established on October 5, 2010, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes, section 41-198. The Team’s mission is to analyze domestic-violence-related fatalities in Pima County in order to better understand the dynamics that lead to such deaths; to develop recommendations for law enforcement, legal, health, and social service agencies to help them better serve persons involved in domestic abuse or intimate-partner violence; and to help reduce future acts of domestic violence and related fatalities.

The Pima County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team is an initiative of the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. The Team consists of representatives from nonprofit domestic violence service organizations, victim services agencies, law enforcement agencies, this Office, and Adult Probation. Additionally, representatives from other agencies--such as the Office of the Medical Examiner, Child Protective Services, schools, and religious communities--may be invited to participate in the review of a specific case as appropriate.

By conducting a formal review of selected fatalities in which domestic violence played a significant role, the Team seeks to better understand the causes and dynamics of these deaths. Some of the Team's specific goals are to identify patterns and trends in fatalities resulting from family or intimate-partner violence; to increase both safety for victims and accountability for perpetrators of domestic violence; to promote cooperation and communication among agencies investigating and intervening in domestic violence; and to identify gaps in services and formulate recommendations for policies, services, and resources to fill those gaps.

Help for Victims of Domestic Violence:
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, help is available.

  • Are you a victim or a witness?
  • Questions about your criminal case?
Call the Victim Sevices Division:
(520) 724-5525

Monday through Friday
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For Tucson City Court cases, which are not handled by the County Attorney, please call:
(520) 791-5483
Domestic Violence Unit News
Disclosure Statement: Fatality Review Team Meetings
A required statement of where all notices of the meetings of the Pima County Domestic Violence Fatality Review team will be posted.
32 N. Stone Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85701