The previous answers say police have no duty to arrest. Yet it seems statutes in many states require arrests in some domestic violence cases. For example, in Nevada, NRS 171.137 is entitled,

"Arrest required for suspected battery constituting domestic violence."

Please clarify.

Although this is a Nevada law it's a very common law in many states. Many domestic violence cases occur so this would give police obligations in a wide range of cases.

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    previous answers... are you refering to law.stackexchange.com/questions/53515/… ? Please choose a jurisdiction (state or country) to base this on. In Azerbeidjan, the rules are different from inner Mongolia from the Republic of Korea from Kentuky.
    – Trish
    Aug 25, 2020 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


You are asking a different question

The title to the earlier question -- "Do the police have a civil duty to do their job" -- is slightly misleading. The question is not whether the policy have an abstract "civil" duty to enforce the law, but whether they have a specific "constitutional" duty to do so. If they do have such a specific duty, then, as they OP says, they could "be sued for not doing their job."

As ohwilleke explains thoroughly, the answer to this question is "no." The Supreme Court has consistently held there is no constitutional right to police enforcement of the law. In particular, the SCt has held that police aren't violating the 14th Amendment when they don't "do their job." According to the Court, someone who is hurt when the police don't enforce the law, is not deprived of "life, liberty or property without due process of law." This in turn means that the people who are hurt can't sue the police under §1983, which allows people to sue state or local officials who violate their constitutional rights.

As you point out, the Nevada statute clearly requires officers to make an arrest in some cases. However, this requirement is not absolute; the statute also creates an exception to the requirement:

a peace officer shall, unless mitigating circumstances exist, arrest a person when the peace officer has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has...committed a battery upon his or her spouse..

The statute goes on to explicitly exempt the officer and her department from liability if she decides not to make an arrest:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose liability upon a peace officer or his or her employer for a determination made in good faith by the peace officer not to arrest a person pursuant to this section.

Thus, the statute sends mixed signals to police officers. On the one hand, it requires them to make arrests in some domestic violence cases; on the other hand, it says they are not liable if they ignore this requirement.

Taken together, the Nevada statute and the SCt's decisions mean people who are hurt if police don't make an arrest under 171.137 cannot sue the police under either state or federal law.

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    Your final paragraph goes too far - police can be successfully sued when they owe a duty of care to a particular person, for example, they have that person in custody and that person is injured by police negligence. What the SC decisions state is that police don’t owe this duty in the absence of a special relationship
    – Dale M
    Aug 25, 2020 at 23:09
  • @DaleM Thanks! I thought the limited nature of my claim was clear, given the context, but obviously not, so I'll fix it. Be sure to let me know if it's still unclear.
    – Just a guy
    Aug 25, 2020 at 23:13
  • @user34165 Sorry if I wasn't clear. I didn't mean to say the SCt's decision was opposed to this law. The SCt's opinion says that if: a) someone the police didn't arrest hurts someone else; then, b) the person who is injured can't sue the police for violating his constitutional right to police protection. In other words, nobody has a constitutional right to have the police enforce of the law.
    – Just a guy
    Aug 25, 2020 at 23:31
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    @user34165 There are two related questions here: 1) Does the state law require police to arrest people? The answer to this question is, "Yes, the Nevada law says police must make an arrest." 2) What happens if the police don't make a required arrest? The answer to this question is, "Nothing happens to the police if they do not make a required arrest." The statute explicitly says they cannot be held liable under Nevada law, and the SCt says they are not liable under the 14th Amendment.
    – Just a guy
    Aug 26, 2020 at 3:20
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    Also, even if there is a duty, it doesn't mean that there is a private cause of action for money damages to enforce that duty.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 28, 2020 at 16:14

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