I am being accused of MA domestic violence. How serious is this?

It is the type of case that has long-lasting effects. As a Boston criminal lawyer of many years, I have seen more than my fair share of Massachusetts domestic violence cases. It is the type of case that is not only a terrible nightmare for the victims, but also the system itself…because of our history of riding the pendulum from one side to the other.

Yesterday morning, state and local police arrested 41-year-old Marcello Almeida (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). He is charged with the fatal Marshfield stabbing 24-year-old Patricia Frois (hereinafter, the “Deceased”). According to the Commonwealth, this was a domestic violence incident.

The assault was reported at around 8:01 a.m. in a building at the Village at Marshfield, an apartment complex of 20-unit buildings off of Route 139. The Deceased was found with multiple stab wounds in the building foyer. She was treated at the scene and transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead at about 8:30 a.m.

State, local and federal officers rushed to the scene where they found the Defendant. He was allegedly hiding in a shed in a back yard near the apartment complex. Law enforcement says he did not put up a fight. He is, however, said to have been injured and taken to an area hospital under police guard.

People who had varying degrees of alleged knowledge of the couple say that there was a history of abuse and that the Deceased had been trying to get out of the relationship. Law enforcement is not revealing, as of yet, information on whether there had been previous complaints of abuse.

The Defendant will likely be charged with several counts, including Massachusetts murder and armed assault and battery.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Massachusetts Domestic Violence Cases

Domestic violence matters have been “hot potatoes” for a long time now. Years ago, such cases were just treated like a “marital squabble” and so ignored by the criminal justice system…until the resulting dead bodies started to pile up.

In typical fashion, the system long ago jumped to the polar opposite in the treatment of such cases. Simply put, if an allegation is made, and police have to respond, someone is going behind bars. At least for a little while. Generally, it tends to be the man, should one be involved.

We have even set up a “stop gap” measure, the Massachusetts 209A restraining order which is awarded to whoever claims fear of physical violence. Usually, once such fear is stated, nothing more need be said…by anybody.

Actually, “Domestic Violence” is a backdrop of other crimes. The other criminal allegations are usually assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and murder. Sometimes, rape, sexual assault or malicious destruction of property is also involved.

The point is that, should the label of domestic violence be attached to the allegations, the matter will receive special treatment by law enforcement. It becomes even more difficult to escape the experience unscathed.

“But, Sam, what if my girlfriend claims I hit her and then calls the prosecutor and says she refuses to cooperate with them? Case dismissed?”

No. First of all, your girlfriend likely has little choice in the matter. It is no longer her case…it belongs to the Commonwealth. Oh, to some degree they might take her concerns into consideration, but this is a domestic violence case. If they have to, they will force her to get up on that stand at trial and testify.

There are reasons for this, of course. Experts say that there is a syndrome in which victims of abuse end up blaming themselves and do not want to punish the abuser. Also, sometimes, the victim is afraid to testify.

Notice I did something here that I seldom do. I mentioned the word “victim“. Of course, there are victims of domestic abuse out there. However, more and more, they are not the only ones who initiate criminal charges.

However, do not expect the DA to actually investigate them. No, the arrest has been made. The accused must be guilty. Therefore, whether the complainant wants to drop charges or do anything other than prosecute…it is assumed that duress is involved.

Kind of like that “assumption of guilt” I often write about.

This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood criminal matters in the Commonwealth. There are many more questions you should ask and I should answer…and we will get to some of those tomorrow.

To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/Boston/metrodesk/2011/09/police-search-for-suspect-marshfield-stabbing/CsCS7PbDU8crYmJDXbH0lL/index.html?p1=News_links

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