In 2014, significant changes were made to domestic violence criminal laws in Massachusetts. New criminal statutes were created, including:

  • Assault or Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member; and
  • Strangulation and Suffocation.

Under the domestic assault and assault and battery charges, a “family or household member” is defined as: persons who (i) are or were married to one another, (ii) have a child in common regardless of whether they have ever married or lived together or (iii) are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship.

However, under the felony strangulation and suffocation law, it does not require such a relationship be proven for a conviction. The Commonwealth is required to prove either:

  • Strangulation: “the intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying substantial pressure on the throat or neck of another;” or
  • Suffocation: “the intentional interference of the normal breathing or circulation of blood by blocking the nose or mouth of another.”

Bail & penalties for domestic violence charges

In addition to increased penalties, including possible increased jail sentences, receiving a continuance without a finding (“CWOF”) after being charged with these offenses results in the mandatory completion of a certified batterer’s program, unless a judge waives the requirement by making written findings as to why such program is not necessary under the circumstances.

Changes were also made in regards to the imposition of bail for those charged with such domestic violence crimes. A defendant must now wait 6 hours before being bailed out of a police station. If a defendant is brought directly to court after being so charged, he or she must wait up to 3 hours before being arraigned, unless the district attorney’s office agrees to an earlier arraignment time.

How to report domestic violence

Finally, new reporting requirements were created in which domestic violence is alleged as part of any crime. Under these requirements, the district attorney’s office must file a preliminary written statement as for whether “abuse” (defined as either “attempting to cause or causing physical harm; placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm; or causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress”) has occurred in conjunction with the alleged crime. The preliminary statement is then entered into the statewide domestic violence record keeping system. While the statement will not be available for public inspection or part of a defendant’s Criminal Offender Record Information (“CORI”), information about it is available for use by court officials in future court proceedings, including, but not limited to, other criminal matters, restraining order hearings, juvenile court hearings and custody hearings.

Given the vast consequences and complexities involved if you are charged with such a domestic violence offense, it is extremely important to have an attorney well versed in this area of law to assist you for what can be a very emotionally draining and costly experience.

If you  or  someone you know needs legal assistance,  contact our attorneys at Ryan Faenza Cataldo LLC to get expert help.