Actually I don’t: The Impact of Warrantless Arrest Laws on Divorce & Marriage


In an effort to protect those involved in relationships subject to violence from an intimate partner, states began implementing warrantless arrest laws starting in the late 1970’s. While these laws vary in the exact responsibilities of the responding police officer, the general idea of the laws was to make it more likely that the officer would leave a domestic violence call with an arrest of one or more of the parties involved. Despite their intentions, it is possible that these laws could either increase or decrease the prevalence of divorce and/or marriage. We implement a quasi- experimental research design by exploiting variation in the adoption of these laws across states and time to estimate difference-in-difference and event study models using individual-level data. We find no clear evidence that any form of warrantless arrest laws are leading to changes in either divorce or marriage, possibly because they lead to an under-reporting of domestic violence which allows a bad relationship to continue.

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