If you or someone you love is facing a criminal domestic assault or battery charge, it is crucial that you seek counsel to evaluate your case. Gaining the experience of a legal professional is the only way to protect yourself from an onslaught of legal ramification. Knowing your options will help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case and avoid serious long-term loss, both personally and professionally.
Domestic violence is any type of abuse committed by a person against another member of the household, family member, romantic partner, or ex-spouse. This means a person does not have to live in the same household as the “victim” to be charged. Domestic assault, like assault and battery, is punishable by up to two-and-a-half years in jail and $1,000 in fines. If an assault is made while the defendant is under a protective order, the sentencing could be up to five years in prison and $5000. Charges could elevate to felony status if a weapon is used or if the victim is seriously injured, pregnant, or over 65 at the time of assault. The sentence for such a charge could result in up to 15 years in prison.
Even if the defendant is offered probation without jail time, there are still serious financial costs involved. The court can mandate the defendant enroll in a Certified Batter’s Program or an anger management program. Both programs require a significant time and financial commitment. The Certified Batter’s Program can cost up to $3,500. While anger management is less demanding and more cost-effective, the court does not always approve this option. Other long-term consequences include the temporary loss of custody or visitation rights, the revoking of firearm rights, the loss of immigration status, and the loss of employment or other job opportunities.
Under the Massachusetts mandatory arrest policy, an investigating officer must arrest anyone accused of a domestic violence crime, even if there is little evidence that a crime even occurred or if the victim insists a crime was not committed. A simple 911 call by a neighbor can lead to an immediate arrest. Once a report is made, the district attorney’s office decides whether a case will go to trial and is often unresponsive to the victim’s requests. Because Massachusetts seeks to protect the victim first, a protective, or restraining, order is often put into place immediately after a charge is made. The court may order the defendant to avoid a specific geographic zone relative to the plaintiff and even wear a GPS tracking device.
An experienced criminal defense attorney is the best weapon you can have to avoid a life-altering outcome. A skilled attorney can take advantage of a clean criminal record or find evidence that will keep your case from going to trial. In some cases, the ill motives of a plaintiff can be used to reduce charges or lead to alternatives to jail time, such as counseling or anger management. In other cases, a plaintiff’s decision to live with the defendant after the arrest can lead to a dismissal of all charges. Never accept a plea bargain or admit to guilt without contacting a qualified criminal defense attorney first to evaluate your case.