The Massachusetts Crime of Permitting Assault and Battery on a Child

A recent article in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune discussed some charges brought against a woman who allegedly allowed her husband to abuse her children. The Essex County District Attorney filed charges against Anne Ladd after her husband Justin had been indicted on forty-one crimes including sex crimes, violent crimes, criminal civil rights violations and more. Prosecutors maintain that Justin Ladd exposed his genitals to the girls, racially disparaged them, hit them, treated them like slaves and tortured them. Anne Ladd has publicly supported her husband and claimed that her daughters have fabricated the story. The district attorney’s investigation suggests otherwise and now Ms. Ladd has been charged with several crimes including the crime of permitting assault and battery on a child. This crime is not often charged in Massachusetts and is the primary subject of this article.

Assault and Battery Defense Lawyer

Assault and Battery Defense Lawyer

What Does the District Attorney Have to Prove to Convict?

The relevant statute here is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 13J. There is a misdemeanor version of this law and a felony version. The misdemeanor version states that anyone having custody or care of a child permits bodily injury to a child may be punished up to two years in the house of correction if convicted. The felony version requires the prosecutor to prove substantial bodily injury and allows a judge to impose a five-year state prison sentence.

This law applies not just to parents but to anybody having assumed responsibility for the child’s care. Thus, babysitters, caretakers of any sort, parents, stepparents, etc. all fall under that definition. The standard for proving that the defendant “permitted” the unlawful activity is expansive. There must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt that an ordinary person on the defendant’s position would have recognized that the child “was exposed to being inflicted with injuries”. After the evidence has been adduced at trial the prosecution usually asks the judge to instruct the jury with the lesser included offense of reckless endangerment of a child. This is an easier case to prove and is codified by G.L. c. 265 Section 13L. The potential sentence for a conviction of this lesser included offense is also two and a half years in the house of correction.

Are There Any Defenses to This Crime?

Obviously there are defense to this crime as there are with any crime. The problem is that the victims are often the most sympathetic. One defense is lack of knowledge that abuse was occurring at all. This defense is usually easier for caretakers to advance, particularly those people whose contact with the children is limited. Babysitters, nannies, people who watch the child for a limited period of time are more likely to succeed with this defense as opposed to parents who are with the children more frequently. Battered women’s syndrome has succeeded in these cases as well. Sometimes the degree of culpability lessens when the accused suffers from mental health issues or a well documented substance abuse problem. Remember though that anytime a child is a victim the chances of a successful defense diminish no matter how valid the defense claim might be.

Assault and Battery Defense

We have defended these crimes successfully for decades. Call Attorney Stephen Neyman now at 617-263-6800. You need to start your defense right away.