Residents Question Use Of Domestic Violence Laws


In late November, Jeremy Hammer yelled at his brother, John, after a bedroom door his brother opened hit him in the groin.

About 90 minutes later, both brothers had been arrested by officers from the Payson Police Department and were spending the night in jail for domestic violence/disorderly conduct.


John Hammer was arrested for domestic violence after yelling at his brother.

John Hammer said he and his brother were working on Christmas displays in separate areas of their home, and he wanted to see what his brother was making, though Jeremy wanted his decorations to be a surprise.

When John opened up his brother's door, the door hit Jeremy's groin, causing him to yell out in pain.

John Hammer was arrested for being yelled at, and his brother was arrested for yelling.

Raising a voice against a family member often results in that person being arrested in accordance with domestic violence statutes, and it happens often in the Rim Country.

According to police statistics, about 10 percent of the Payson population has been arrested for domestic violence in the past three years, or more than one arrest a day has been made for the crime.

Of all the calls responded to by the Payson Police Department, the most prevalent one is domestic violence.

In 2004, Payson police made 404 arrests for domestic violence, and that figure increased slightly to 406 arrests in 2005.

Through July of this year, there were another 198 arrests for domestic violence, 26 more than the same time the year before.

Payson Police Commander Don Engler said some of the arrests are the result of verbal arguments.

He added that the PPD reacts strongly when it comes to this crime.

Domestic violence offenses must include one or some of the following: Criminal damage, disorderly conduct, assault, violation of a court order and threatening or intimidating.

In order to be labeled "domestic violence," all offenses must be committed against a family member or someone close, such as a boyfriend and girlfriend.

Engler said a minor domestic violence call could be just a small argument in nature that drew the attention of others. He said an arrest might not be made in this instance.

"Where it crosses the line is if the argument disturbs the peace of others," the police commander said.

John Hammer said the Payson police are turning a good law into a joke in the Rim Country.

"It's a joke. It's no longer a viable law," he said.

Both brothers pleaded not guilty, but were told first-time offenders could be required to attend 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling.

"I cannot take this arrest seriously because it is a joke," he said, mentioning when officers arrived at his home he was asleep and his brother was smoking a cigarette outside and police made it clear that at least one person was going to jail.

"It does not make sense to me," he said. "If it was an ongoing problem I could understand."

Jeremy Hammer said he admitted to police that he was the one yelling.

"I was shocked and insulted," he said of being arrested. "That is a law that should not be taken lightly. It's a real slap in the face to real domestic violence victims."

He said he talked to many people who have relayed similar stories to him, adding this would have never been an issue anywhere in the Valley.

"It has gotten completely out of hand," he said. "It's abuse of authority. This was a very traumatic experience to me. I am absolutely insulted."

Engler said, the PPD tends to see more domestic violence cases around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas because of the stress and being around others.

Engler said the police department when making an arrest for an argument considers the offense to be disorderly conduct.

Most of the domestic violence arrests are misdemeanors and come before the Payson magistrate where the sentence usually is a fine of several hundred dollars and often mandates counseling.

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