Domestic Assault and Battery in Massachusetts

  • Irvin Rakhlin
  •   Criminal Defense
  •   Comments Off on Domestic Assault and Battery in Massachusetts

Domestic assault and battery charges refer to the unwanted touching of a person that was likely to cause bodily harm or was offensive and done without consent of the person. Most often, these cases stem from arguments either with a significant other or a family member. Therefore, they often bring up a range of emotions, from confusion to fear to anger. Many times, in the heat of the moment accusations are made and police are called to deal with the situation. Often times after the incident when the parties have both calmed down, either one or both party wish to drop the charges. It is important to know that charges cannot be dropped after police have been called and allegations have been made.

Victim testimony

Most people who have been accused of domestic assault and battery do not know that the testimony of the alleged victim is not the only evidence that exists. Some common pieces of evidence used by the Commonwealth in these prosecutions are:

  • Medical records of the alleged victim
  • Photographed injuries of the alleged victim- regardless of the seriousness of said injuries
  • Third-party witnesses
  • Video surveillance, if the incident occurred in a public location
  • 911 recording, which is most pervasive type of evidence being used in recent times

The Commonwealth tries to use a legal theory known as the excited utterance exception to admit these out-of-court statements for the truth of the matter asserted. If they are successful in convincing the court that these statements are actually excited utterances, which depends on a number of factual determinations, then the prohibition for the admission of hearsay evidence can be overcome. Which means that even without the cooperation of the alleged victim, the Commonwealth could try to play this prior recorded statement to a jury in the hope of securing a conviction. This places many defendants in an uncomfortable position because they will not know until the day of their trial whether or not the Commonwealth has sufficient evidence to go forward.

Most individuals charged with domestic assault and battery should expect a trial date to be scheduled in their case. The Commonwealth has no incentive to dismiss this type of case prior to the trial date, as they have a much stronger incentive to show that they are taking action when these types of allegations are made. This type of reasoning gives little weight to the actual wishes of the alleged victim and certainly does not take into account the individual characteristics of the defendant.

Recent changes in domestic violence cases

To fully understand why the Commonwealth is pursuing these domestic assault and battery cases so fervently in the face of the wishes of the alleged victim, one needs to understand the history in the last 10 years domestic violence cases in Massachusetts. The case on the forefront of domestic violence was the Jared Remy murder case. In that particular case the defendant, who had a long history of domestic violence accusations, was released on his own recognizance on his most recent domestic assault and battery case. At the time there was no specific charge known as domestic assault battery- it was simply an assault and battery misdemeanor charge. Upon his release, he returned home and tragically murdered the mother of his child. This example of domestic violence is of course the most extreme. And while many individuals charged with this crime will not have any similarities to Mr. Remy, they are nonetheless treated as if they do. In response to public outcry relative to that case, the legislature passed an act relative to domestic violence in 2014. That Act created the offense of domestic assault and battery and caught a fight a number of other additional offenses that are related. It also overhauled the way in which restraining orders are dealt with in Massachusetts. All of this goes to say that the tone of the Prosecutors office is relative to these offenses has become much harsher since the Jared Remy case. This means that every single defendant should expect his or her case to be treated as if it could potentially be a life-threatening situation.

If you find yourself charged with a domestic assault and battery, you need an experienced and seasoned criminal defense attorney to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Commonwealth’s case and to guide you towards what will hopefully be a dismissal or a not guilty at trial. Any other result will unfortunately come with a series of very unpalatable consequences ranging from probation, batterer’s classes, or even incarceration. The first few days after an arrest are critical for setting up the tone of the case. And if you were fortunate enough not to be arrested and instead are receiving a summons to appear in court, that is an even greater opportunity to change the eventual direction of this prosecution. Don’t delay, call Rakhlin Law for a free consultation regarding your domestic assault and battery case today.

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