Domestic violence may fall under a number of criminal laws in Massachusetts, including “Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member,” “Assault on a Family or Household Member,” “Assault and Battery by means of a Dangerous Weapon,” “Assault and Battery causing serious bodily injury,” Assault with intent to maim, rape, or murder, or mayhem. It is also common to see “intimidation of a witness” charged in domestic violence cases. Colloquially, these charges are sometimes referred to as “domestic A&B.”
Domestic violence (DV) charges are one of the most common scenarios that play out every day in the courtrooms of Massachusetts, and the attorneys at PiltserCowan Law have extensive experience with these cases. DV charges have a number of unique elements for the defense attorney to keep in mind, including “dangerousness hearings,” in which the prosecutor asks to have the defendant locked up prior to trial. These hearings happen within 3-7 days of the Defendant’s first appearance in court and represent an opportunity to question witnesses and examine evidence much earlier than would otherwise be possible.
Another common element, however, is that alleged victims in DV cases frequently change their minds about going forward with a criminal case, and fail to appear and testify on the trial date. When this happens, the case is often dismissed. However, if the alleged victim testified at a dangerousness hearing, the prosecutor may be able to use that testimony at trial, even if the alleged victim does not appear. For this reason, the savvy defense attorney must carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of questioning the alleged victim at a dangerousness hearing, versus trying to avoid creating a record of testimony that could be used at a later trial.
Unfortunately, many DV clients get themselves in more trouble by pressuring the alleged victim not to testify, sometimes in violation of a restraining order or conditions of release. Courts treat these matters very seriously, and it is not uncommon to see a person sent to jail for violating a restraining order or conditions of release, or for intimidating a witness, even as the underlying DV case is dismissed.
DV cases also come hand in hand with divorce proceedings and requests for restraining orders under General Law chapter 209A. The attorneys at PiltserCowan Law are familiar with the competing interests at stake when a defendant is faced with the three-pronged attack of a divorce (and possible questions of child custody), a restraining order, and a criminal charge. In many cases, the combination of all three elements requires different considerations than any one alone would do.
If you need counsel for a DV case in Massachusetts, please do not hestitate to call us now for a free consultation, at 617-245-1976!