Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County District Attorney

Domestic Violence

Dane County District Attorney's Office
Victim Witness Unit
215 S. Hamilton St. #3000
Madison, WI 53703-3297

Phone: (608) 266-9003
Fax: (608) 261-9766

Mandatory Arrest

In Wisconsin, law enforcement officers are required to make an arrest in domestic violence incidents when certain criteria are met:

  1. The intentional infliction of physical pain, physical injury or illness; or impairment of physical condition;
  2. First, Second, or Third Degree Sexual Assault; and / or;
  3. Any physical act that may cause the other person to reasonably fear physical or sexual assault.

The domestic relationship between the alleged suspect and victim can be defined as:

  1. Spouse or former spouse;
  2. Adult with whom the person resides or formerly resided with;
  3. Adult with whom the person has a child in common.

Charging Decisions

Domestic violence cases are referred to the District Attorney’s Office by all units of Dane County law enforcement. Before making a charging decision, the prosecutor will consider factors that include:

  • Victim and witness statements who saw the events at issue or heard noises indicating a domestic violence incident was happening, i.e., screams, furniture being thrown, etc.
  • Excited utterances with the victim present or admissions by the suspect to police or others.
  • Extent of and prior history of violence in the relationship; prior convictions of the defendant; pending conditions related to bail; pending injunctions.
  • Injuries and medical reports indicating injuries; 911 tapes with victim/witness/suspect’s statements; jail recordings.
  • Physical evidence such as weapons, broken furniture, torn clothing, disarray.

Victims of domestic violence face many obstacles when continuing to have contact with the defendant, and may have to consider such factors as the safety of the victim, children, and/or immediate family, financial concerns, housing, and transportation.

Domestic violence staff actively refers victims to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, the local domestic violence program, to assist with victim’s concerns and contribute to the overall safety of the victim and the children. 

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services:
(608) 251-4445
Visit the website

Initial Appearances & Release On Bail

At the defendant’s initial appearance, a court commissioner considers terms and conditions for the defendant’s release from jail custody. The prosecutor will generally consider that a condition of the defendant’s release on bail will be NO CONTACT WITH THE VICTIM and any other appropriate conditions. Domestic violence victims may request a variety of conditions that may be taken into consideration that range from No Contact to No Threatening or Violent Contact. Special requests may include No Contact Within 24 Hours of Consuming Alcohol or Non-prescription Controlled SubstancesNo Contact Except By Phone, and/or No Contact Except for Purposes of Child Visitation.

The domestic violence victim has the right to provide the District Attorney’s Office with input, however, the presiding court commissioner or judge will make the ultimate decision regarding conditions of release. At times, the prosecutor may argue for No Contact even when the victim’s input indicates otherwise. The prosecutor will consider the history of violence, extent, and nature of violence, the likelihood of continued risk to the victim and children, and the existence of other court-ordered conditions of no contact such as conditions of the defendant’s probation/parole.

Restraining Orders

A Restraining Order is a court order limiting defined potential conduct of someone who has abused or harassed you, ordering them not to abuse or contact you. The District Attorney's Office cannot provide legal advice or assistance in filing restraining orders. Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) employs legal advocates who can assist with paperwork, questions, and attend court hearings with you. The DAIS phone number is (608) 251-1237. There are three types of restraining orders:

Domestic Abuse

There is no filing fee for Domestic Abuse Restraining Orders. The petitioner must show the respondent engaged in physical abuse, sexual assault, impairment of physical condition, criminal damage to property, or a threat to do one of these. The respondent must be:

  • A current or former spouse, adult family member, or domestic partner.
  • A person the petitioner has a child with.
  • A person the petitioner has dated.
  • A person who provides in-home or community care for the petitioner.
  • A guardian of an incompetent petitioner; guardian fits the above categories.


The filing fee for Harassment Restraining Orders is $164.50. The petitioner must show the respondent has been harassing, intimidating, subjecting the victim to physical contact, or has threatened to do so. The court commissioner can waive fees based upon what is written in the Statement of Facts if there are threats or acts of physical violence, non-consensual sexual contact, or stalking behaviors.

Child Abuse

There is no fee for Child Abuse Restraining orders. The petitioner must be a child victim, parent, stepparent, or legal guardian of the victim. The petitioner must show emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of the child committed by the respondent.

How do I file a Restraining Order?

Restraining Order paperwork and instructions for filing are available here on the Dane County Clerk of Courts Website and at the Dane County Law Library of the Dane County Courthouse, Room L1007. Paperwork can be eFiled through the Wisconsin Courts website or in person at the Dane County Courthouse in the Records Center, Room 1002. If filing in person, once victims have filled out the Restraining Order packet, go to the Records Center in Room 1002 to sign the Petition in front of a notary (Records Center staff will perform the Notary Act). Records Center staff will summon a Court Commissioner via email. Once a Court Commissioner has reviewed the material and assuming they have approved the same, Records Center staff will make all necessary copies. File all papers with the Clerk of Courts in Room 1000 of the Dane County Courthouse, and follow the next step regarding serving the restraining order. The Commissioner will schedule an injunction hearing and issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) if appropriate. The TRO is in effect until the injunction hearing. This hearing must be held within fourteen days of the TRO being issued.

How is a Restraining Order served?

The TRO must be served (officially delivered) to make it enforceable. It also must be served to let the respondent (alleged abuser) know about the court date for the injunction hearing. Take the papers next door to the Public Safety Building (Dane County Jail) and give them to the Sheriff’s Department, where they will serve these papers on the defendant for a fee. Call the Sheriff's Department at 284-6800 to see if the respondent has been served or to give the Sheriff new information about where the respondent can be found. A private process server may also serve the papers for a fee.

What if my abuser comes to find me after being served with papers?

Call the police immediately. Keep a copy of your restraining order with you at all times. If the police arrive and discover the respondent has not yet been served, an officer can serve one of your extra copies. If you need the police to serve your papers, ask the officer to write the following on the copy you are going to keep:

  • The date and the police officer’s name and badge number
  • Abuser or harasser’s name and type of papers served.
  • Ask the officer to notify the Sheriff's Department by phone and/or in writing that the respondent has been served.

What is an Injunction Hearing?

This is the court hearing to grant your long-term Restraining Order. You may bring an attorney if you wish. Please be on time!! If your case is called and you do not show, the restraining order will be dropped. If you are running late, call the Probate Office at (608) 266-4331. The date and time of your hearing will not be changed. If you miss your court date, you may need to show that there has been a new incident of violence in order to file papers again. If you and the respondent appear in court, both of you will testify. If the respondent has been served with a Notice to Appear but does not come to court, the hearing will be based on your testimony alone. You will be under oath. Take your time, admit if you don't remember something, if you are afraid, have defended yourself, called the police, if the respondent has been arrested, and if they have violated the Restraining Order. Be polite and don't interrupt the respondent’s testimony. You will have a chance to respond or ask the respondent questions.

Focus on the following issues when you testify in court:

  • When and where the abuse took place – place, time, and date of each incident starting with the most recent.
  • Physical abuse – hitting, choking, slapping, kicking, forcing sex, etc.
  • Threats of physical harm or violence – threatening to kill you, slice your throat, burn down the house, etc.
  • Injuries or pain – bruises, scratches, pain from being punched, etc.
  • Weapons – guns, knives, broomsticks, any object used to hurt you.
  • Evidence – pictures, medical records, police reports, etc.
  • Witnesses – anyone who has seen or heard the respondent threaten or harm you.
  • Harassment – unwanted and repeated phone calls, visits, and/or contact which you have asked this person to stop. In Wisconsin, the term “harassment” describes unwanted contact, physical abuse or threats of violence.

What if the Restraining Order is granted?

If the commissioner finds that domestic abuse, harassment, or child abuse has occurred, they may order an injunction (long-term Restraining Order) for as long as the petitioner requests, but not to exceed four years for domestic abuse and two years for harassment or child abuse. A restraining order helps to protect you, but it does not guarantee your safety. Follow a safety plan, especially if you believe that being arrested is not going to stop the respondent from trying to hurt you.

What if my abuser violates the Restraining Order?

Call the police immediately. The respondent has just committed a crime. Ask the police to have the District Attorney’s office review the case for charges even if no arrest is made. If the respondent is on probation or parole, give a copy of the Restraining Order to the parole agent and report any violations. To find out who their probation agent is, call the Department of Corrections Central Records at (608) 240-3750 and provide the person’s name or birthday.

Safety Plans

According to the Department of Justice crime statistics, 85% of battered women are killed by an abusive partner when trying to leave the relationship. Be especially careful about your safety at this time -- don't let a restraining order give you a false sense of security. These are signs that may predict deadly behavior:

  • Obsession over you; the abuser says they can't live without you.
  • Depression and talk of suicide.
  • Threats to kill you, your children, or your relatives.
  • Kidnapping attempts on you or your children.
  • Fantasies of homicide or suicide.
  • Increased violence or severe incidents of abuse.
  • Possession of weapons or threats to use them.
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Unpredictable changes in behavior.

If you recognize any of these behaviors, take them very seriously. Reach out for help – call Domestic Abuse Intervention Services at (608) 251-1237, or call the 24-Hour Crisis Line at (608) 251-4445. If the abuser can't find you, they can't kill or hurt you. Careful safety planning is necessary for avoiding surprise attacks. Consider these suggestions and take extra precautions when weapons are present. Always be prepared and alert.

Safety for an Explosive Incident

  • If you can see an argument coming, try to find an exit. Stay away from the bathroom (hard surfaces), kitchen (knives), or any room with weapons.
  • Stay in a room with a phone so you can call 911, the police, a family member, friend, or neighbor. Memorize important phone numbers.
  • Walkthrough your house, room by room. Identify the best escape routes (doors, windows, elevator, stairwell). Practice and time how long it takes to get out of your home safely. Review your plan often.
  • Pack a bag with extra keys, money, medications, legal documents (birth certificate, car title, restraining order, etc.) and other important items. Keep it hidden in a handy place or leave the bag elsewhere (a trusted friend or family member's house, a locker, at work, etc.) in case your house is searched or you have to leave unexpectedly.
  • Think of a code word to use with your children and others to communicate when you need the police NOW! Tell them what they should do (call 911, get out of the house, run to the neighbor's, etc.)
  • Decide where you will go if you have to leave home. Stay with someone you trust, preferably someone the respondent does not know.
  • Do not tell the respondent that you are leaving.

Safety in Your Home

  • Change the locks on your doors as soon as possible. Buy additional locks and safety devices (bars, bolts) to secure your windows. Consider installing or increasing outside lighting. If you have been the victim of a crime, there are federal Victims of Crime Assistance funds available that may help you pay for these security measures. Ask an advocate for assistance.
  • If you have young children or other dependents living with you, prepare a protection plan. They should know important phone numbers and escape routes. Tell them not to let strangers or the abuser into the house. Inform schools, daycare centers, etc. about who has permission to pick up children.
  • Inform family, neighbors, and landlords the abuser no longer lives with you and to call the police if they see the abuser near your home.

Safety in Public

  • Inform others you trust about your situation. Tell them if a violent incident occurs to call the police. Describe the abuser and provide a picture if possible.
  • Screen your phone calls.
  • Do not walk alone. Ask someone to escort you to your car, the bus, or taxi. Use a variety of routes to go home.

Personal Safety & Emotional Health

  • If you are considering returning to a potentially abusive situation, DON’T! Discuss an alternative plan with someone you trust.
  • If you have to communicate with the abuser, arrange to do so through an attorney, by mail or fax.
  • Think positive thoughts about yourself and be assertive with others about your needs. Read up on domestic violence to educate yourself.
  • Decide who you can call to talk to freely and who can give the support you need. Consider Domestic Abuse Intervention Services at (608) 251-1237, or call the 24-Hour Crisis Line at (608) 251-4445.
  • Attend a women's or victims' support group to gain support from others and learn more about yourself and the relationship.
  • Trust your instincts and judgment. If your situation is very dangerous, consider any action that might calm things down and give you time to ensure your safety.
  • Always remember that you do not deserve to be hit or threatened!

Community Resources

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS)

Visit Site

24-Hour Help Lines:
Phone: (608) 251-4445

Text:    (608) 420-4638

211 DV Intervention Programs

211 Wisconsin

Rape Crisis Center (RCC)

Visit Site

24-Hour Helpline: (608) 251-7273

Línea De Ayuda: (608) 258-2567

National Hotline: (800) 656-4673

Domestic Violence Resource Center (Midwest Center for Human Services)

Visit Site

(608) 231-3300

DV Treatment Services
Survivor Services
Teen Services

Rainbow Project (counseling for children)

Visit Site

(608) 255-7356

Dane County Crisis Intervention (suicide intervention)

24-Hour Crisis Line: (608) 280-2600

Family Service Madison

Visit Site

(608) 252-1320

Respite Center (short-term child care)

Visit Site

(608) 244-5700


For in-progress incidents only:


Victim Witness Unit (Dane County DA’s office)

(608) 266-9003