Domestic Violence Investigations by the SFPD

According to the general order of the San Francisco Police Department on domestic violence, the term “domestic violence” is defined as an act or pattern of abuse committed against the suspect’s intimate partner, defined by state law to include:

  • a spouse,
  • former spouse,
  • cohabitant,
  • domestic partner (including in a straight, bi-sexual, gay, lesbian or transgender relationship);
  • a person with whom the suspect has had a child; or
  • has/had a dating or engagement relationship.

For criminal defense attorneys that fight domestic violence cases in San Francisco, it is important to be familiar with the general orders used with in the San Francisco Police Department related to domestic violence investigations. If you have questions about your domestic violence case pending in a courtroom in the greater San Francisco Bay area then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ticket Crushers.

Find out what you need to do right now to protect yourself and your family from this serious criminal charge. Be particularly careful not to violate the letter or spirit of your pre-trial release. One mistake could cause your bond to be revoked so that you are forced to remain in jail until your trial putting you in a particularly vulnerable position.

San Francisco Attorneys for the SFPD Domestic Violence Investigation

We can help you find a way to fight your cases aggressively while addressing any underlying issues that caused the allegation. For many of our clients, the goal is an outright dismissal of the charges.


The term “cohabitants” are defined as two unrelated persons living together for a substantial period resulting in some permanency of the relationship. Factors to consider when determining whether cohabitation exists include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Sexual relations between persons who live together
  2. Sharing of expenses or income
  3. Joint use/ownership of property
  4. Whether the parties claim to be married
  5. Continuity of the relationship
  6. Length of the relationship

The term “dating relationship” is defined as a frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectional or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations.

The term “protective order or court order of protection is a court-ordered injunction—regardless of form, content, length, layout, or type (i.e., stay-away, restraining, criminal, civil, temporary, emergency order)— issued for the purpose of preventing interaction between a subject and a specific (“protected”) person or persons including, but not limited to:

Violent or threatening acts against the protected person(s); Stalking or harassment of the protected person(s); Contact or communication with the protected person(s); either directly or through a third party; Physical proximity to the protected person(s); or Specific interaction or activity, as ordered by the court.

Procedures of the SFPD for an Arrest for Domestic Violence

Members of the SFPD are required to make an arrest whenever reasonable cause exists to believe a felony has occurred. In all felony domestic violence cases, the officer shall refer the victim to the Special Victims Unit (SVU) for follow-up investigation, regardless of whether an arrest has been made.

Officers with the SFPD are also required to make an arrest whenever reasonable cause exists to believe a misdemeanor has occurred in their presence.

For all misdemeanor arrest cases, the officer are required to refer the victim to the District Attorney’s Office for follow-up investigation. When a misdemeanor has occurred, but not in the members’ presence, members shall inform the victim that the victim may make a private person’s arrest.

If probable cause exists to believe that an assault or battery has occurred upon a current or former spouse or cohabitant, upon a person in a current or former dating or engagement relationship, or upon a parent of a child in common, and the arrest is made as soon as probable cause arises, members may make a warrantless arrest. No private persons arrest is required.

If probable cause exists to believe a violation of a domestic violence court order has occurred and the suspect has notice of the order, members shall make a warrantless arrest and book the suspect whether or not the violation occurred in the officers’ presence.

After an arrest has been made, the SFPD officer should book or cite the suspect based upon whether the offense is likely to continue. The officer should consider the suspect’s history of violence, whether the victim is fearful of retaliation and any violation of an existing domestic violence protective order.

When an arrest has not been made in a criminal case, the officer should refer the victim to the SVU for follow-up investigation.

The Domestic Violence Police Report in San Francisco, CA

SFPD officer shall investigate and write an incident report for any crime that involves domestic violence (even if the suspect is not at the scene). This includes threats and/or violations of any court order. To provide confidentiality, members should interview a domestic violence victim in private, if possible.

Officer are trained to check the “Domestic Violence” box on the face sheet of the incident report. Officer are trained to include the following information in the narrative of the incident report:

  • Any prior domestic violence calls to the same address that involved the same alleged abuser or victim.
  • Any documented or undocumented reports of domestic violence between the parties.
  • Any signs that the alleged abuser was under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance.
  • Whether the responding officer found it necessary to inquire if any firearms or other deadly weapons were present at the scene and whether that inquiry disclosed the presence of firearms or other deadly weapons.
  • That the victim was given a Domestic Violence Referral Card.

If the dominant aggressor is an issue and a determination is made, members shall document the investigative steps taken to identify which party was the dominant aggressor. Officers are trained to offer confidentiality to victims of domestic violence. If the victim requests confidentiality, members shall check the “confidentiality requested” box in the Victim Reporting Section of the incident report.

The Domestic Violence Supplemental Checklist (SFPD 480a and 480b)

SFPD officers area also required to complete the Domestic Violence Supplemental Checklist (SFPD 480a and 480b) for all domestic violence related incidents (including court protective order violations, threats, and stalking) and attach the Supplemental Checklist to the original report.

If the victim chooses to leave the premises because he or she is fearful the suspect may return, SFPD members shall obtain a phone number and address where the victim can be contacted unless the victim is staying at a shelter.

If a crime of domestic violence has not occurred, members shall document the details of the call in the MDT and provide the complainant with the CAD (complaint) number.

Officers should code all domestic violence-related calls for service in the MDT as follows: “DV” Domestic Violence or “DVW” Domestic Violence/Weapon and indicate the particular weapon (fist, feet, etc. are considered weapons).