Domestic Violence Lawyer
Criminal cases involving allegations of domestic violence are abundant in district courts and superior courts throughout Massachusetts. Despite the high number of domestic violence cases, allegations of domestic abuse are serious and treated as such by prosecutors throughout the Commonwealth. Although the courts say defendants are innocent until proven guilty, simple allegations of domestic violence are damaging to one’s reputation because of well-deserved negative stigma associated with domestic abuse.
If you are facing domestic violence accusations, you need proper legal representation. Attorney Anthony Riccio is a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer experienced in handling cases involving allegations of domestic abuse. If you are faced with a domestic violence accusation in Massachusetts, Riccio Law will ensure that you get the best legal representation available.
With offices in Quincy and Attleboro, Attorney Riccio handles domestic violence cases throughout Massachusetts. Whether you are located in Boston, Brockton, Dedham, Fall River, New Bedford, Plymouth, Taunton, Worcester, or the Cape & Islands, Riccio Law is available to defend you against domestic abuse charges.
What Is Domestic Violence?
While domestic abuse takes place in many different shapes and forms, domestic violence charges in Massachusetts generally include allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse, threats, harassing, or stalking between spouses, significant others, individuals who share a child in common, or those in a dating relationship. A conviction for domestic violence may include a jail or prison sentence and/or term of probation along with a requirement to complete a batterer’s program or anger management program.
In the event a restraining order is issued by the court, any violation of the restraining order will result in criminal charges issuing. A restraining order or abuse prevention order is a court order designed to protect a victim of domestic abuse from further harm by their abuser. Restraining orders, commonly referred to as 209A Orders in Massachusetts, are issued in cases where a victim makes credible allegations that their abuser:
- Harmed them physically
- Attempted to harm them physically
- Puts them in fear of serious physical harm
- Pressured, threatened, or forced them to have sex or engage in sexual relations
Examples of Domestic Violence
When it comes to domestic violence, there are two main factors to consider: the nature of the allegations and the relationship between the accused and accuser. Domestic violence comes in multiple forms with different charges for different allegations, however, the most commonly charged offense associated with domestic violence is the misdemeanor crime of Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 13M.
To find a defendant guilty of Assault & Battery on Family/Household Member, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- the defendant touched the victim;
- the defendant intended to touch the victim;
- the touching was offensive or likely to cause physical harm; and
- the defendant and victim were family or household members.
Under M.G.L. c. 265 §13M, a family or household member includes individuals who are or were married, have a child in common, or are or were in a substantive dating or engaging relationship. The maximum penalty for the crime of Assault & Battery on a Family/Household Member is 2 ½ years in the house of correction (county jail).
Although most often associated with physical acts of violence, not all domestic abuse is physical in nature. Intimidation, threats, verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological abuse all constitute forms of domestic violence. Below are common acts of violent and non-violent domestic abuse:
In Massachusetts, the police do not need a warrant to arrest an individual accused of domestic abuse so long as there is probable cause to believe he or she committed an act of domestic violence. Furthermore, law enforcement does not have to witness the abuse or observe any physical injuries to make an arrest. Allegations of domestic abuse in Massachusetts, whether or not there is supporting evidence, will almost certainly result in an arrest and criminal charges.
What are the Penalties if Found Guilty?
Domestic violence charges bring the potential for serious penalties after a guilty finding. The sentence imposed will depend on a number of factors, including the specific charges, the nature and circumstances of the abuse, and the defendant’s prior criminal history. Potential penalties include the following:
- Prison or jail
- Probation, including payment of monthly probation fees
- Payment of fines and fees
- Requirement to attend and complete a Batterer’s Program or Anger Management Program
- Requirement to comply with any Restraining Orders, Stay Away Orders, and/or No Contact Orders
Some of the collateral consequences of a domestic violence conviction may include:
- A permanent criminal record (defendant pay petition court to have record sealed after 3 years for misdemeanor conviction or 7 years for felony conviction)
- Losing your right to vote (after felony conviction)
- Providing a DNA sample (after felony conviction)
- Losing your right to bear arms
- Difficulty finding a job and/or housing
- Disruption of relationships with your family, friends, relatives, and boyfriend/girlfriend
Are Protective Orders Available?
When police respond to a report of domestic violence, they must inform the alleged victim about their rights and any resources available to them, including the right to an Emergency Order of Protection or Emergency Restraining Order. An Emergency Restraining Order (“RO”) may be issued by a Massachusetts judge for up to 10 days after an ex-parte hearing (one-sided or one-party hearing) where the alleged victim files an affidavit alleging abuse.
Emergency Restraining Orders may also be issued over the telephone and remain in effect until the court opens the following business day. The alleged victim must appear in court the following day to have the Emergency RO extended for a period of 10 days.
If an Emergency Restraining Order is issued, the judge will then schedule a second hearing 10 days out where the defendant has the right to be present and object to an extension of the Emergency RO. At the two-party hearing, the defendant may cross-examine the alleged victim and present witnesses and other evidence in their defense. If the judge grants the extension, the Restraining Order will likely be extended for a period of one year.
While the Restraining Order is in effect, any violation of its terms will result in criminal charges for Violation of Abuse Prevention Order, in violation of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A Section 7.
What are Defenses against Domestic Violence Charges?
While any number of defenses may be available to charges of domestic abuse, the nature and circumstances of the allegations largely dictate what the best available defense or defenses are. Some available defenses to domestic violence charges include:
- False allegations
- Alibi defense
- Lack of requisite intent
- Lack of criminal responsibility / Insanity Defense
- Insufficient evidence
Although unlikely to be a viable defense at trial, filing motions to suppress evidence based on violations of the 4th, 5th, or 6th Amendments of the United States Constitution may result in the exclusion of certain evidence and limit the strength of the Commonwealth’s case at trial.
When to Request for a Free Consultation with Anthony Riccio
If accusations of domestic violence are leveled against you, it is recommended that you immediately hire legal representation to help you fight the charges. Attorney Anthony Riccio is an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer who regularly represents individuals against domestic violence charges.
Whether you are the subject of an investigation or have been charged criminally, contact Riccio Law here or call our office at (508) 226-4500 to schedule a free consultation. We are available by telephone 24/7/365.