Articles Posted in Domestic Assault and Battery

Published on:

In many Massachusetts criminal cases, particularly domestic violence cases, a witness asserts a privilege not to testify at a trial. The most common privileges that are asserted are the marital privilege and the privilege against self-incrimination. Simply stated, in most circumstances the government cannot force a spouse to testify against his or her spouse–this is referred to as the marital privilege. Also, a witness cannot be forced to testify if some of the testimony will incriminate him or her.

If the Commonwealth plans to go to trial and cannot call this witness it may try to call a witness that heard the person make the statement that incriminates the client. In this situation the trial attorney must file a motion to exclude the statement of the witness who is reiterating what a non-testifying witness stated. This is generally done as a “Motion In Limine” filed prior to trial. Depending on the court, this can be done on a date prior to the trial date or immediately before trial. One of the seminole cases in this area is Commonwealth v. Gonsalves, 445 Mass. 1 (2005).

Continue reading

Published on:

Although recently acquitted of first-degree murder, George Zimmerman has not been able to stay out of the police log or the public eye and was recently involved in an alleged case of domestic assault. The Washington Times reported that back in early September, 2013, Zimmerman’s wife accused him of stealing items, including a large flat screen television valued at over $2,000 and furniture, from the home the couple previously resided in. The former Zimmerman residence is owned by the wife’s parents. Apparently, things went down hill for the happy couple after she filed for divorce. The estranged Mrs. Zimmerman accused her husband of becoming violent during an argument, threatening her with a gun and smashing an i-pod.

This type of incident that occurs between family members is often referred to by law enforcement as a case of Domestic Violence. In this case, it appears that the police investigated the allegations of Mrs. Zimmerman and although George was initially taken into police custody he is not facing any criminal charges. According to the Washington Times, Mrs. Zimmerman recanted her initial story.

In Massachusetts, cases of domestic violence are taken very seriously by the police and the District Attorney’s office. It is the usual course that following a call to the police for any type of assault or argument to a home, someone will be arrested. The authorities preferred method of response in these situations is to separate the fighting parties, even if the complainant does not wish to have anyone arrested. In their minds this will avoid a tragedy of having someone severely injured or killed after they leave the scene.

In Zimmerman’s case, Mrs. Zimmerman made very serious allegations. Threatening an individual with a gun is the crime of assault with a dangerous weapon and stealing the described property is the crime of malicious destruction of property over $250.00. Both of these crimes are felonies and are punishable by possible state prison sentence.

It is not unusual for a spouse or family member to decide not to pursue charges against a defendant after an arrest has been made. Unfortunately for them, it is not their decision. Once there is an arrest the complaining witness is not a “party” to the case but a witness. The case is captioned Commonwealth v. Defendant, thus the final decision relative to how a case will proceed is up the the prosecutor NOT the victim.

In Massachusetts, the prosecution cannot force a spouse to testify against his or her spouse, unless certain conditions are present such as the safety of the children. In the event the the only two people that were present during the incident was a husband and wife and there is NO other evidence the exercise of the marital privilege can often result in the dismissal or nolle pross of the criminal case. However, it is important to note that this privilege can only technically be exercised on a trial date and not for a motions hearing or a grand jury presentment–as these are not considered “trials.” Furthermore, there is no privilege that prevents a mother or father from testifying against a child or a sibling from testifying against a sibling. The only privilege relates to the marital privilege and often the court will require that a marriage certificate be presented to the court.

The 911 call is closely examined in the event that a spouse exercises his or her privilege. The cases of Melendez-Diaz and Crawford counsels that a statement made out of course is hearsay and is inadmissible if it is testimonial and the witness was not previously subjected to cross examination. An exception to this principle in Massachusetts is if the police or 911 operator are responding to an “ongoing emergency” because the interview of the “victim” is not considered “testimonial.”

Continue reading

Published on:

The Boston Globe recently reported that a six person jury sitting in Concord District Court convicted the former Waltham police chief of domestic assault and battery. The prosecution secured conviction despite the fact that the defendant’s wife testified that the defendant never attacked her. Based on newspaper reports, it appears that the Commonwealth introduced statements that the defendant’s wife made to a long time friend on the night of the incident indicating that the chief did strike her. Additionally, it seems that there was evidence from the medical records in which the wife stated that she was pushed and pulled. Thus, despite the fact that the “victim” did not testify for the prosecution, the defendant was still convicted.

Defending cases of alleged domestic abuse in Massachusetts requires knowledge of the law and skill. In this case, it appears that the Massachusetts Defense Attorney did a very good job as the chief was acquitted on charges of witness intimidation and threats made to his wife and one of her friends and Commonwealth witness. Thus, it appears that despite the presentation of a strong defense. the jury credited the testimony of the witness claiming that in the aftermath of the incident the victim stated that her husband struck her. The prosecution apparently argued that the victim’s stake in the defendant’s income and pension were motives for her to testify on behalf of her husband.

In Massachusetts a spouse cannot be forced to testify against his or her spouse. However, that does not mean that the Commonwealth will necessarily dismiss the charges. In courthouses across Massachusetts, including Concord, Lawrence and Lowell, the District Attorney’s office makes an assessment of the evidence independent of the spouse’s statements to determine whether to proceed to trial. This case of the Waltham police chief in the Concord District Court is an example of a case that went to trial even though the wife/victim did not want the case to go forward.

A collateral consequence of someone being charged with domestic assault and battery is that if a child was present the Department of Family Services will be notified and an investigation is conducted relative to the safety of the child or children. It is important for anyone charged with a crime to remember that any statements made to this agency are discoverable and could be used against him or her in the event that the case goes to trial. Similarly, in the event that one spouse gets a 209A restraining order and an evidentiary hearing takes place, it is important to remember that any statements made can be used in court during the trial.

Continue reading

Published on:

The Lawrence Eagle Tribune reports that Haverhill Massachusetts Police Officer Victor Pellot was fired after facing criminal charges for stalking and harassment of his wife and her current boyfriend. According to the Tribune Pellot is appealing the decision to terminate his employment as a Haverhill Police Officer. The decision to fire Pellot followed an internal police investigation. Pellot was arrested by the State Police last February and currently faces charges in the Haverhill District Court for stalking and threats to commit a crime.

This genre of case is often referred to as a case of domestic violence in legal circles. In order for the Commonwealth to secure a conviction for the charge of stalking in Massachusetts it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that over a period of time the defendant knowingly engaged in at least three incidents aimed at the complainant; that these acts would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress; that the person did become seriously annoyed or alarmed and that the defendant engaged in the complained of actions willfully and maliciously. This criminal charge is similar to the standard that must be met for a Massachusetts District Court judge to issue a M.G.L. ch. 258E Harassment Prevention Order.

It is not uncommon for 209A Restraining Orders to be issued against a defendant in a case of domestic violence. In order for a citizen to qualify for a Massachusetts 209A Restraining Order the parties must be family members, roommates or have been involved in a substantial dating relationship. The complainant must allege acts that would reasonably place a person in fear of immediate physical harm. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary that the complainant allege or prove actual physical harm–a threat of physical harm is enough for a district court judge to issue and extend an order.

The 209A order is different from the Harassment Prevention Order [M.G.L. 258E] in that the parties do not have to be related for the Harassment Prevention Order to be issued or extended. The most common ground for a person requesting this type of order is that the defendant engaged in conduct that constitutes stalking [described above].

In the event that a defendant has criminal charges lodge against him or her and is also facing a restraining order extension hearing, it is important to evaluate whether the defendant should testify. Although the restraining order proceedings are civil in nature, any statements made by the defendant can, and likely will be, used against him or her if the criminal case goes to trial. Often times it is prudent not to testify at the civl hearing so that a defendant does not unwittingly help the prosecution prove its case.

In the event that the restraining order is improperly issued and extended the recourse that a defendant has is to file a notice of appeal and the case will be transferred to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. It is important to keep in mind that this process can take about one year. If you are in a position in which it appears that the complaining party will reappear year after year to renew the order taking the case to the Appeals Court may be the only way to attain relief. Furthermore, in the event the Appeals Court or the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court holds that the order should not have been issued or extended the order will likely be vacated and will not appear on a background check.

Continue reading

Published on:

According to The Lowell Sun, thirty six year ol Shawn Price from Lowell MA is charged with a number of criminal offenses including domestic assault and battery, assault and battery, illegal possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, improper storage of a firearm and intimidation of a witness. It was reported that the police were dispatched to a Lowell address where Price’s girlfriend alleged that Price punched her, struck her with a coffee cup and coffee maker in an unprovoked attack. Following a bail hearing in the Lowell District Court Judge Barbara Pearson ordered that the defendant be held on $1,500.00 bail. The defendant pleaded not guilty.

According to reports, when the police responded to the alleged domestic violence, Price’s girlfriend claimed that Price had fled. The girlfriend alleged that while Price was in the bedroom using a cell phone he attacked her by grabbing her around the neck then dragging her by the hair. Price then threw the phone in the toilet so that his girlfriend could not call for help. This conduct must be the basis for the intimidation of a witness charge. The witness was apparently hysterical and had visible bumps and bruises. The witness did not seek medical attention and did not receive a restraining order against her boyfriend.

This type of case is often categorized as a “domestic abuse case.” In many situations, however, not in this case, the witness may apply for and receive a temporary 209A restraining order. Initially a “temporary 209A restraining order” is issued by a District Court Judge. In order for such an order to issue the complaining witness must allege facts indicating that he or she was placed in reasonable apprehension of immediate physical harm by the conduct of the defendant. In most cases, a complainant applies for this in a local district courthouse and fills out an affidavit in support of the restraining order. If it is an “emergency” and the courthouse is closed, often a clerk magistrate will call a judge that is “on call.” If the criteria is met, a temporary order may issue. For the order to have legal impact, it must be served on the defendant or he or she must be made aware of the specific conditions of the order. Following this initial order, a court hearing is scheduled approximately ten days from the issuance of the order. The defendant and the complaining witness are expected to show up. If neither party appears in court the order expires by “operation of law” at four o’clock in the afternoon.

In order to be able to apply for a 209 A restraining order the parties must be related, be roommates or be involved in a substantial dating relationship. However, if this criteria is not met a person may apply for a Harassment Prevention Order pursuant to Chapter 258E. In order to apply for this type of order it is not necessary that the parties be related, be roommates or have been in a substantial dating relationship. However, the standard for for the issuance of this order is different. The most common theory under which this type of order is sought is when a witness alleges that a defendant “harassed” him or her. The type of conduct that constitutes harassment is similar to that required for criminal harassment.
.

Continue reading

Published on:

A Haverhill Massachusetts man, Michael Donnelly, was arrested and charged with assault and battery at 3:15 in the morning, released and rearrested for the same offense at 11 a.m.. According to The Lawrence Eagle Tribune the police were called to the Haverhill home twice in a short time span because of a fight with his girlfriend and a “violent outburst.” Donnelly appeared in the Haverhill District Court where the Assistant District Attorney requested that he be held on $3,000.00 cash bail. Judge Stephen Abany declined to set the bail that high but held the defendant on $450.00 cash bail. The Tribune reported that the defendant claimed that the disagreement stemmed from the fact that he wanted to end the relationship with the complaining witness.

Although all of the facts of the case are not known at this time, in these types of cases there are many ways that an experienced Boston area defense attorney can build a defense. One area that must always be examined is whether a defense of self-defense or defense of another is viable. In the event that there was an altercation in which both parties sustained injuries, a self-defense theory must be explored. In the event that self-defense or defense or another is presented during a trial, the Commonwealth must not only prove beyond a reasonable doubt the assault and battery but must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense or in defense of another.

These types of cases are often referred as “domestic violence” cases. In addition to facing criminal charges, a defendant may also have to oppose the issuance of a restraining order. In situations where the parties have a “substantial dating relationship,” are family members or roommates a complainant may apply for a “209A” restraining order. In the event that the plaintiff can establish that a defendant’s actions put him or her in reasonable apprehension of immediate physical harm a judge may grant the order. Keeping in mind that at the time an initial order is granted a judge only hears one side of the story, the order often issues at the outset. Typically, a return date is given and at that time the defendant or opposing party will have the opportunity to present his or her side of the story. A defendant opposing a 209A restraining order MUST be mindful that anything he or she states during the civil restraining order hearing may be used against him or her during the criminal prosecution. Thus, depending on the circumstances, it may not always be wise for the defendant to speak in open court but have an experienced domestic violence lawyer speak on his or her behalf.

Continue reading

Published on:

The Lawrence Eagle Tribune reports that a Haverhill police officer has been charged with assault and battery on his wife stemming from an incident in their Groveland home. Officer David MacKinnon has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into what happened in his home that led to his wife calling the police. The police report indicates that MacKinnon’s wife called the police following an argument that led to MacKinnon grabbing her by the neck, pushing her face in a pillow and preventing her from leaving the bathroom.

Now, these are only allegations and we will have to wait and see how this scenario plays out. These situations are often termed as cases of “domestic violence” because the alleged assault was committed on a family member. In the event that the couple reconciles the government cannot force a spouse to testify against his or her spouse because in Massachusetts the “marital privilege” can be asserted. The fact that there was no mention of a 209A restraining order being issued at the complainant’s requests bodes well for Officer MacKinnon.

In cases of domestic violence the police usually inform the “victim” that they can apply for a restraining order if he or she claims that he or she is in reasonable apprehension of immediate physical harm. A judge can order that a defendant refrain from abusing the “victim,” order a defendant out of the home, order a defendant to stay away from a couples children and order the defendant to stay away from the victim’s place of employment. If you have been served with a 209A restraining order or a Harassment order it is important that you have an experienced domestic violence attorney on your side. Although a restraining order is a civil order, an alleged violation can result in criminal charges against a defendant.

Continue reading

Published on:

A forty-eight year old woman, Carol Provost, will face multiple counts of assault and battery charges in the Salem District Court for allegedly grabbing her eighty-two year old mother by the hair and beating her with a belt. The Lawrence Eagle Tribune reports that Provost is also accused of attempting to choke her mother with a belt before she was able to lock herself in the bathroom and eventually flee to a hospital for refuge.

Based on these accusations, Provost could face charges stemming from assault, assault and battery, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon to kidnapping and assault with intent to murder. At this time it appears that only one side of the story has been made available. Although all of the facts surrounding this incident are not known, it appears that viable areas for a defense could be self-defense, defense of another or some type of psychiatric defense such as “insanity.”

These types of crimes are often termed “domestic crimes” because the involved parties are related. Often the complaining witness requests a 209A restraining order which requires a hearing for a temporary order to be extended. If you are a defendant facing a restraining order hearing, it is imperative that you have an experienced Boston criminal attorney on your side. Although a 209A restraining order is a civil order, any alleged violation can result in being charged in the criminal court with violation of a restraining order.

Continue reading

Published on:

Actor Charlie Sheen has been arrested and charged with menacing a deadly weapon, second-degree felony assault and criminal mischief. According to The Aspen Daily News, upon conviction, felony menacing usually carries a potential sentencing range of one to three years in prison, and second-degree assault usually carries a range of two to six years in prison. Criminal mischief in Colorado does not include a mandatory minimum prison sentence upon conviction.

Sheen’s arrested was prompted by a 911 call to the police from his wife Brooke Mueller. According to reports, an argument began when Meuller informed Sheen that she wanted a divorce and custody of their twin boys. Mueller claimed that Sheen grabbed her by the upper neck and threatened her with a knife. It has been reported that Mueller had high levels of alcohol in her system at the time she made the report. As we all know, there are two sides to every story. Sheen denies his wife’s allegations. This type of case is categorized as a case of “domestic violence.” When police are called to a residence because of an allegation of “domestic abuse” usually one of the parties is arrested and it is usually the man.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime of domestic violence you must have an experienced Massachusetts defense lawyer on your side. In most circumstances, the police advise the complaining party of his or right to have a civil restraining order. The standard for the issuance of a restraining order is low. Although a restraining order is a civil order, criminal charges may issue if there an allegation that the restraining order has been violated.

If you have been charged in a case of “domestic violence,” developing a strategy and conducting a complete investigation must take place early. Based on the facts of the case it is often important to document and/or photograph any injuries to the defendant, interview witnesses and take pictures of the scene in order to mount a successful defense.

Continue reading

Published on:

A stop for what police believed would be a routine drunk driving arrest resulted in a Lawrence man, Silver Dubon, being arrested on outstanding warrants for threats, assault and battery and attempted murder. Dubon was initially pulled over on route 110 in Lawrence and charged with speeding, failure to use care in stopping, a marked lanes violation, driving without a license and operating under the influence of alcohol. According to The Lawrence Eagle Tribune, after the police determined the identity of the driver, he faced additional charges. Reports indicate that the outstanding warrants relate to a case of alleged domestic violence dating back to 2008. Although all of the facts of the case are not known at this time, the Tribune reports that over one year ago Dubon allegedly had an argument with his wife that escalated into a physical fight.

In Massachusetts operating under the influence of alcohol and assault and battery are considered misdemeanor offenses. Assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and attempted murder are felonies. A charge is a misdemeanor when the most that a defendant could be sentenced to is a committed sentence in jail or in the house of correction. If the potential penalty for a crime is committed time in state prison then the offense is considered a felony.

If you have been charged with a crime you should have an experienced Boston defense attorney on your side. If you are facing charges in Peabody, Lowell or Lawrence having a local defense lawyer on your side can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. In cases where a defendant is charged with “domestic violence” a 209 A civil restraining order is often sought by the complaining witness. Although the order itself is civil, a criminal charge may issue if there is an allegation of a violation of the order. Thus, preventing the issuance of the order by having an attorney present your side of the case is crucial.

Continue reading

Contact Information