There are few criminal cases more stressful than a domestic violence charge. These criminal cases are highly emotional and can be the most difficult for the parties involved. If you are facing charges of domestic assault, you need an attorney on your side that’s willing to fight for you no matter what everyone else is saying. I know you may feel like you are completely on your own.
The fact is, that the court system is simply never going to give you the benefit of the doubt in a domestic case. You need to fight with everything you have to get fair treatment in court. And you need an attorney who will be relentless in defending you.
The reason domestic violence cases are so difficult for both the defendant and the alleged victim is due to the relationship between them. Emotions are high as these charges can stand to forever change your life and the people in your life. Depending on the specifics of your case, charges like this can cost you more than your freedom; they can cost you your family.
When it comes to domestic violence in Massachusetts, you will likely face both criminal and civil proceedings. Because the state acts to protect the alleged victim, a protection order will be issued as soon as possible. Your restraining order issues will be handled in civil court–take a look at my restraining order violations page for more information on this.
A criminal battery or assault charge can be considered a domestic assault depending on the relationship between you and the alleged victim. However, contrary to many people’s beliefs, you don’t have to be married. Any of the following relationships can qualify the charge for a domestic classification:
- Related by blood or marriage
- Engaged or dating
- Parents who share a child
Winning a Domestic Assault Case
Milford District Court
Gardner District Court
Lynn District Court
Domestic A&B (2 Counts)
Boston Municipal District Court
Brookline District Court
Motion to Dismiss Agreed
Chicopee District Court
We have successfully won a number of domestic assault cases, by getting the charged dropped at a hearing on a motion to dismiss, and also by taking cases to trial.
All domestic assault cases are complicated and unique, so there is no single strategy that works.
But we have experience in all Massachusetts district courts at winning cases, and wrote the book on winning cases at Clerk Magistrate’s hearings.
Give us a call for a confidential consultation on your exact case, and we can discuss the best strategies and options for you.
Other Challenges For Domestic Assault Defendants
As I said at the beginning, the courts and the system can take extreme and often unfair positions against anyone accused of a domestic assault incident. The police in particular typically have a policy to arrest and remove the suspected instigator in any domestic violence dispute call.
They do this based on whoever makes the more convincing argument, or who appears to have an injury, even if it is minor or unrelated.
The police can easily get this wrong, and often do. But now that you’ve been arrested and charged, it can take some serious legal wrangling to get this mess untied and resolved. The judge is not going to be easily inclined to believe that the cops maybe got the facts wrong. And no prosecutor can afford to cut us a break and be accused of being soft on domestic violence. That would be career suicide, so they will very often fight these cases to the end, even if the case is weak or stupid.
So we’ve got our work cut out for us. Yes, it can be extremely unfair.
And this isn’t just true in traditional spousal cases or boyfriend/girlfriend disputes, but between any family members, parent/child, or even just roommates.
But we would be very happy to talk to you and discuss how we can help you.
We’ve fought and won cases in a variety of different situations, so we can talk about similar cases we’ve had great success with.
Massachusetts Domestic Violence Penalties
A domestic assault charge carries a maximum potential 2 ½ year prison sentence and fines reaching $1,000.
However, if the assault is committed while a protection order is in place, that potential sentence is elevated to up to 5 years and $5,000 in fines.
Other things like the severity of the assault or if a weapon was used can further increase your potential penalty when charged with domestic violence.
While the maximum sentences sound scary, they aren’t typical or likely, and there aren’t mandatory. So there are often good options to work out in the event that we don’t win your case or get it dismissed.
Ref: MGL §265.13A
Changes in the Domestic Violence Laws
In August, 2014, the legislature passed bill S. 2334, An act relative to domestic violence.
Changes to the laws and court procedures include:
- a registry of domestic violence suspects,
- tougher programs for alleged batterers, and
- removing the requirement for the victim or victim’s family to testify at a dangerousness hearing (without the judge’s approval in the case of family members.)
Criminal Charge of Strangulation of Suffocation
In cases of strangulation in domestic assault cases, instead of having to choose between an attempted murder charge, which can be hard to prove, or an assault charge which only has a maximum of 2 1/2 years in prison, lawmakers have added a strangulation offense to the criminal statutes.
A strangulation conviction can carry up to a 5-year maximum prison sentence.
When it comes to domestic violence charges, the prosecution doesn’t want to appear to give a defendant any breaks. These laws are designed to protect the victim and prosecutors can go after the charges with a vengeance in some cases.
This doesn’t mean you case is hopeless, however. There are many factors that can have a positive influence on your case and I intend to seek them out.
We can challenge the evidence against you or capitalize on your lack of criminal record, for example. We can even work with the prosecution to potentially get you into anger management classes or probation in lieu of jail time.
Here is a video about a domestic assault case that I won in court.
I am the victim. Can I drop the charges in a domestic assault case?
Not easily, no. We get this call a lot. A spouse feels like they made a mistake in calling the police, and want to undo the charges. Maybe they were really mad at the time but decided it was an overreaction and really didn’t want their husband or wife to get arrested. But that is what happens almost all the time if you call the cops in a domestic case.
But unfortunately, it is hard to undo. The Commonwealth can prosecute anyway, and is often inclined to move forward, even over the objections of the victim. And there is a fairly legit reason for this, you can understand. Victims can absolute be coerced by controlling partners, so it is understandable that the Commonwealth is cautious and takes these cases seriously.
But this can also go absolutely too far. Trivial, absolutely nothing cases get pursued all the time that shouldn’t.
And it is true that these cases can be difficult to prosecute without a cooperating witness that is the victim.
Also in cases between spouses, “spousal privilege” applies. You can not be forced to testify against your wife or husband.
Even in non-spousal domestic cases, getting good evidence and testimony out of an uncooperative and unwilling witness can ultimately not be worth it for the prosecutor.
Exactly how we handle you case depends on the specific circumstances of your situation. Contact me to discuss the details. I can give you a free consultation and some valuable legal advice during this time of need.