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A batterer’s intervention program, or BIP, is a rehabilitation program for people convicted of certain domestic violence offenses. Participation can be voluntary, although enrollment under a court order is more common. Defendants are typically requited to complete a BIP as a part of their sentence. Different states use different programs, though they all focus on education and rehabilitation.
A batterer’s intervention program is a rehabilitation and education course for people accused or convicted of domestic violence. It is often imposed as a part of a defendant’s sentence. It is a common aspect of a pretrial diversion program for domestic violence cases.
Different states have different requirements for the courses. Some require certain topics to be covered. Most require the program to last at least a certain number of hours. Generally, states have a certification process for courses. Only certified BIPs can be used to satisfy a court order.
In California, for example, BIPs consist of 52 domestic violence classes. Participants meet once a week for 2 hours. The program lasts a year. In Massachusetts, though, it is called an Intimate Partner Abuse Education Program (IPAEP). The Program lasts for 80 hours, with weekly sessions of 2 hours each.
To become a certified batterer intervention program, providers have to comply with the state requirements and monitoring. Many batterers’ intervention program providers are non-profit organizations.
Generally, participants are responsible for paying program fees. There are often sources of financial assistance for those who cannot pay on their own.
Generally, a batterer’s intervention program is an education program that provides counseling services. These services often rely heavily on group therapy sessions. Many BIPs are a part of the Duluth Model to combat domestic violence.
In California, for example, all batterer’s programs in the state are legally obligated to:
The content of these programs can come in the form of:
The focus of this content is on:
The goal of the BIP’s content is to stop domestic violence.3
Participants in California are limited to only 3 absences. Each absence has to be authorized. Participants have to show good cause for each absence from a counseling session.
At the end of the program, participants receive a certificate of completion.
Many BIP programs are a part of the Duluth Model approach. The Duluth Model aims to address domestic violence by creating a coordinated community response from various law enforcement and supportive agencies, like counseling centers and other treatment programs. It focuses on victim safety and makes the community provide that safety, rather than the victim. The Model holds the abuser accountable and does not blame the victim for the abuse. A core understanding of the Duluth Model is that domestic violence is a form of control. It aims to rectify abusive behavior by educating abusers of their role in the abuse and the negative effects they have on others. It aims to rehabilitate abusers by providing strategies and initiatives for anger management and de-escalation techniques and for resolving underlying mental health issues.
The Model is named after the small town in Minnesota where it was first used to reduce the use of violence against women in the 1980s.
Batterer’s intervention programs are usually either a part of a defendant’s probation or pretrial diversion. If BIP is a part of the defendant’s probation, then failing the program is a violation of probation. The defendant may be sent to jail to serve the rest of his or her sentence. If BIP is a part of a pretrial diversion, then failing the program will put the case back in criminal court.
When defendants are sentenced to probation, they must comply with the terms of probation. The strictness of these terms can depend on the underlying offense. The precise terms of probation imposed will depend on the criminal offense committed. Some common conditions of probation include:
For defendants sentenced for a crime of domestic violence, completing a BIP is a common term of probation. In some states, like California, it is a required condition of probation.4 In that state, the period of probation must be at least 3 years long, regardless of whether the offense was a misdemeanor or a felony.5
Failing to complete a term of probation, including BIP participation, is a probation violation. Probation officers who suspect a violation can arrest the probationer. A probation violation hearing will be set. At the hearing, law enforcement will present evidence that the probationer failed his or her BIP obligations. A criminal defense attorney can help the probationer show that:
After hearing the evidence, the judge will decide whether to:
If the batterer’s intervention program is a part of a pretrial diversion program, failing the program will resurrect the criminal case. What happens next would depend on whether the defendant pled guilty in order to take pretrial diversion or not.
If the defendant had to plead guilty to be eligible for diversion, then failing a BIP will send the case back into the criminal justice system. However, the case would go straight to sentencing. The defendant cannot raise exculpatory evidence because he or she will have already pled guilty.
If the defendant did not plead guilty, the case would return to criminal court for resolution. The defendant would be able to raise legal defenses to the charge. The prosecutor would have to prove that the defendant committed domestic violence.
Generally, no, a defendant cannot expect his or her conduct at a BIP to remain confidential. Many states require batterer’s intervention programs to inform the court and probation department of the defendant’s progress. Disruptive behavior in counseling and missed sessions will be reported.
However, defendants usually have to sign a confidentiality agreement, promising not to disclose information about other participants in the BIP.
Generally, a crime of domestic violence is a violent offense perpetrated on an intimate partner. Certain other potentially violence offenses are often included, as well.
Violent crimes are usually offenses like:
Other potentially violent crimes that can amount to domestic violence in some states are:
When the victim in any of these offenses is an intimate partner, it becomes a crime of domestic violence. Different states define “intimate partner” differently. Some may use a different term, like “family or household member.” However, they generally include the same people as California’s law, which covers:
Violent crimes or potentially violent crimes carry higher penalties if they are crimes of domestic violence or intimate partner violence. They often lead to restraining order, a loss of gun rights, and increased jail time.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.