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Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

The words “assault” and “battery” are usually used together to describe the criminal act of physical violence, or the threat of physical violence, against another person. These two words have distinctly separate meanings. However, they also have many similarities and often occur together. While assault can involve just a threat of violence, battery involves the intentional offensive or harmful touching of another person.

The Three Elements of Battery

For a person to be convicted of battery, the following three elements must have been present:

  • The touching was intentional.
  • The touching was offensive or harmful.
  • The victim did not consent to the touching.

It may come as a surprise that battery does not require an intent to harm, only an intent to make contact with the victim. So, accidentally bumping into a person who subsequently falls down and is injured is not battery. But spitting on someone, although it does not result in injury, may constitute battery. Basically, if you make offensive or harmful contact with another person, you may be charged with battery. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing battery charges.

Penalties for Battery in Massachusetts

If you have been charged with battery, you may be wondering what penalties you are facing. In MA, individuals convicted of this offense may receive the following penalties:

  • First offense: Up to two-and-a-half years in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • When bodily injury to a child occurs: Up to five years in prison.
  • When significant bodily injury to a child occurs: Up to 15 years in prison.
  • When serious bodily injury occurs, or the act is committed against a pregnant woman: Up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Second and subsequent offenses against a family member: Up to five years in prison.

As with any crime, penalties for battery are largely dependent on prior criminal history, previous battery-related convictions, and whether any aggravating circumstances were present when you committed the act. If, for example, you have no prior criminal record, you are not likely to face serious penalties if you are charged with battery for spitting on someone. On the other hand, if you have an existing criminal record, and you are charged with battery for harming a pregnant woman, you may be facing some serious time behind bars. In either situation, the help of a skilled MA defense attorney can make all the difference in the world.

Domestic Assault and Battery

Domestic assault and battery is basically the same act as regular assault and battery, with one exception. Domestic assault and battery involves a family or household member. Penalties for this offense depend on the specifics of your particular case, but the standard penalty is up to 30 months in prison, and up to a $1,000 fine. In addition, you may be required to complete a Certified Batterer’s Program, which can cost more than $3,500 in some situations. Continue reading

The United States Constitution holds that a citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, there are some exceptions. In Massachusetts, an individual accused of a crime can be detained in the county jail, before his trial, for up to 90 days if he is deemed a “dangerous person.” This is known as pre-trial detention.

In addition to creating extra stress and hardship, pre-trial detention can impede the defendant’s ability to work with his lawyer on a defense. In most cases, a defense lawyer works with the defendant, immediately following a charge, to craft an effective defense while details are still fresh in his mind. During these crucial hours and days following a criminal charge, the defendant may:

  • Provide contact information for witnesses.
  • Visit the scene of the alleged crime with his lawyer.
  • Provide details of the events leading to his arrest.
  • Work with his attorney to gather important evidence.

If the defendant is locked in pre-trial detention during this important phase of the defense process, his chances of success are dramatically reduced. For this reason, among others, it is essential to find a Boston defense attorney who understands how to avoid pre-trial detention. And if, for any reason, your attorney is unable to remove such an order, he or she should understand how to use it to your advantage. When a defendant is subjected to pre-trial detention, his attorney is generally permitted greater access to the prosecution’s witnesses. During cross-examination, a skilled MA defense attorney can look for weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and use them to the defendant’s advantage.

What Types of Crimes Can Place a Defendant in Pre-Trial Detention in MA?

This type of order is most commonly issued in domestic abuse cases, but the following scenarios may also result in the pre-trial detention of a defendant:

  • Felonies involving “the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.”
  • Felonies that involved a “substantial risk” of physical force or injury even if no injury occurred.
  • Violations of restraining orders.
  • Misdemeanors or felonies involving abuse.
  • Drug offenses with mandatory minimum sentences of three years or more.
  • Third or subsequent motor vehicle offenses (generally involving drunk driving).

Prior to the issuance of a pre-trial detention order, a hearing must be held. The hearing is like a mini-version of the upcoming trial; the judge makes rulings and examines the facts. However, the hearing is also an opportunity for the defense attorney to learn a great deal about the prosecution’s evidence, or lack thereof.

What Factors Does a Judge Consider When Deciding if a Pre-Trial Detention is Necessary?

  • The level of danger posed to the community by the defendant.
  • The allegations of violence against the defendant.
  • The potential penalties if the defendant is convicted.
  • History of mental illness.
  • The defendant’s reputation.
  • The risk that the defendant will attempt to intimidate witnesses or obstruct justice.
  • Past criminal record.
  • Whether the alleged crime included abuse.
  • History of restraining order violations, if any.

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Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed new legislation in 2014 dramatically changing the way domestic violence is penalized in MA. The new law, An Act Relative to Domestic Violence, created two new crimes: domestic assault and domestic assault and battery. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing any type of domestic abuse charges.

Before we discuss domestic assault and battery laws, let’s first discuss what is meant by assault and assault and battery. Battery is a physical act of harmful or offensive contact. Assault basically means “attempted battery”, therefore, you don’t even have to make physical contact with the victim to be charged with assault. For an assault and battery conviction to be likely, the following circumstances must have been present:

  • You touched the victim with no right or good excuse for doing so.
  • You intended to touch the victim.
  • The touching was harmful or offensive, and without the person’s consent.

With regard to the domestic assault and domestic assault and battery laws, the above mentioned elements must still be present. The difference from other assault cases, however, is that the victim must have been a family or household member. If the victim was your spouse, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, or if you have a child together, you will likely be charged with domestic assault or domestic assault and battery. If you are facing these charges, it’s in your best interest to consult with a Boston defense lawyer immediately.

Penalties for Domestic Assault and Domestic Assault and Battery

Here’s where the biggest differences come into play. The penalties for domestic assault and domestic assault and battery are more severe than for their non-domestic counterparts. Although the punishment is generally the same – up to two-and-a-half years in jail –  the fines are much higher. Assault and battery carries fines of up to $1,000, whereas domestic assault and battery fines can be as high as $5,000.

Additional Consequences

If you are convicted of assault and battery (even if it’s a first-time offense), you must complete a batterer’s intervention program. Further, if you are charged with domestic assault or domestic assault and battery, the legislation passed in 2014 now requires you to wait at least six hours before posting bail. This is for the added protection of your spouse or family member. And if this isn’t your first conviction, things can get even worse. Second convictions carry an aggravated penalty, which can land you in a state prison for up to five years. Aggravated assault and battery is a felony offense. You can also be convicted of an aggravated offense under the following circumstances:

  • If the victim is seriously injured, over age 65, or pregnant.
  • If the victim had filed a no contact order against the defendant.
  • If a dangerous weapon is involved (carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison).

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Now, I know we are in the middle of a three part posting and I owe you the third part. I will post that third part tomorrow. Today, however, something that should be more urgently on your mind.

It could be a drunk driving charge. It could be an allegation of domestic abuse. It could even be an unexpected accusation of rape.

People generally do not venture out expecting to be making an involuntary stop at the local police department before they return home.

But it happens. Especially on holiday weekends.

So, you’d best think about it. When the criminal justice wheels start turning with you inside them, you just might find it harder to think clearly and come up with a plan.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Holiday Police Encounters

Over the holiday weekend of course, court is not open. Therefore, should you end up in police custody, you may have to stay there until Tuesday comes along.

“Isn’t there something I can do about that? I don’t want to spend the weekend in jail.”

 

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In my last blog, I laid out the facts for a case, which was recently dismissed because we were able to uncover exculpatory evidence from the Department of Children and Families. Our client was charged with Assault and Battery on a minor (his 7 year old step-son). The child made the initial disclosure of the abuse 2 years after the abuse was alleged to have occurred at a time when the Department of Children and Families were already involved. We motioned the court, pursuant to Massachusetts Criminal Procedure Rule 17; to issue a summons to DCF for their records regarding the child at the time abuse was alleged to have occurred.
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There are some cases where it is best for defense counsel to offer no comments before he receives specifics of allegations against his clients.

These include matters where there are many moving parts and competing interests.

Cases like when one’s liberty is caught between law enforcement and the caught-in-the-public’s-headlights, the Department of Children and Families.

The case of Alexandrea Delyla Chadwick, 22 years of age and hereinafter, the “Defendant” for example.

The Defendant was just in Worcester Superior Court to plead not guilty to charges that she was, at least in part, responsible for the abuse of her boyfriend’s 7-year-old son (hereinafter, the “Son”). Authorities say that the Son was starved and burned.
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As I Mentioned in my last post, I will be discussing an attempted murder case where we recently obtained a not guilty. In today’s blog, I will be discussing our client’s arrest, arraignment and the subsequent dangerousness hearing that was held prior to his release. For a recap of the facts please see my last blog. As a reminder, any and all identifying information (names, dates, locations, etc.) will be altered to protect the identity of our clients.

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Sam and I just wrapped up an attempted murder trial with a Not Guilty on all counts. Over the next couple blog posts I will be discussing various issues that came up throughout the litigation and the strategies that we used in order to put ourselves in the best position at trial. As always, any and all identifying information (names, dates, locations, etc.) will be altered to protect the identity of our clients.
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Perhaps because of our frustration with not solving actual criminal justice problems, we have convinced ourselves that the more we can define and characterize criminal behavior the more we are actually accomplishing something.

 

I have to admit that I think instead of accomplishing something, we are actually wasting time and deluding ourselves.

 

Long ago, we did not treat domestic violence cases seriously enough. Now, anyone associated with the criminal justice system can tell you that the pendulum has swung very far in the opposite direction.

 

An assault and battery case is, simply, an assault and battery case. The factors surrounding the alleged assault and battery come into consideration by a jury, prosecutor and judge. Certainly, a judge is going to treat a man convicted of beating his wife more seriously than a barroom brawl that simply got out of hand. Further, we would assume that the prosecutor would as well.

 

But that is not good enough now. Now, domestic violence matters get a great deal of public attention and the criminal justice system, which merely put into affect laws that are passed by our political legislators.   The primary concern that I have witnessed, now handling criminal cases in two states and from both sides for 20+ years is the overwhelming drive to avoid negative publicity.

 

Seeming proactive or “harsh” on crime gets one good publicity. Anything that would suggest the contrary gets bad publicity. It is really that simple.

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When I was first approached by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly to comment on the ruling in Commonwealth v. Dossantos, I did not understand why this case was considered noteworthy.

Upon further reflection, though,I realized that it could have been quite noteworthy.

You see, back in 2014, there were changes made to the Massachusetts domestic violence laws. A part of this was General laws chapter 276, section 56(a). This mandated that when a criminal defendant is arrested and charged with a crime against a person or property, the court must inquire of the prosecutor as to whether the Commonwealth alleges that the matter was a domestic violence incident. Should the prosecutor answer in the affirmative, the statute necessitates that the judge “make a written ruling” that the Commonwealth so alleges. In such an event, the defendant’s name is added to a domestic violence registry, “DVRS”.

Let me present that another way. The Charges are read. The judge asks the prosecutor whether it is alleged that the matter involves domestic violence. The prosecutor answers the question (as he or she is also required to do in writing). The issue addressed in this case involves exactly how the court is to react before it reacts…affirming what the prosecutor has just said both orally and in writing.

Now, let’s review what this statute is not. It is not a change in the crime charged, which, at the time this event happens, has already been decided. While this “hearing”,
must take place before bail is addressed, there is no indication that the answer to the question will affect the question of bail. Other than the act of adding the defendants name to the DVRS, there is nothing new for the judge to do upon making the finding in a case where, for example, the defendant is charged with striking his spouse over the Head with a baseball bat. Simply echo that the defendant is charged with a crime of domestic violence.

Well, kinda-sorta. Keep reading.

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