If you are charged with domestic violence in Massachusetts, you are facing some serious consequences—but it is important to remember that being accused of a crime is very different from being convicted of a crime. While it is only natural to feel stress and anxiety after an arrest, it is essential that you hire a domestic violence attorney quickly who can get to work preparing your defense.
Potential Defenses to a Domestic Violence Charge
As in all criminal cases, the burden of proof is on the accuser in a domestic violence case. A prosecutor must demonstrate that the accused committed domestic assault and battery or another offense that constitutes an abuse of family or household members. If the charges are aggravated domestic assault and battery, the prosecution must prove at least one of the following:
- The victim was critically injured.
- The victim was pregnant.
- The victim was over the age of 65.
- The accused violated a no-contact order.
To prepare your defense, your attorney will listen carefully to you and will thoroughly investigate the case. By doing so, they will be best able to identify the best possible defense for your specific case. Those defenses might include:
- Self-defense or defense of others. If you are protecting yourself or protecting another family or household member, you can use reasonable force to stop an attack. It is important to note that you cannot argue self-defense if you started or escalated the incident in question. As a result, being honest with your defense attorney about what happened during the incident is key.
- False allegations or shifting story. There may be a number of reasons why someone in your household might falsely accuse you of domestic violence. Perhaps they are trying to influence a child custody battle or divorce proceedings. Maybe they are just so angry with you that they have taken the extreme step of lying about domestic violence. If your defense attorney can demonstrate that your accuser has made a false allegation—something that might be revealed in part by inconsistencies in the accuser’s story about what happened—you stand an excellent chance of being acquitted.
- You have an alibi. This defense is pretty straightforward. If you can demonstrate you were not present during the alleged incident or that you were not involved in any violence, you will have undermined the case against you. Your alibi may take the form of other people who can attest you were with them when the alleged incident occurred. Or it is possible that other household or family members will attest that you were not involved in an alleged incident.
- Lack of evidence. In some cases, the prosecution may simply not have enough evidence to mount a convincing case against you. Your attorney will make sure that the prosecutor’s evidence is legitimate—and challenge any “evidence” that doesn’t add up.
We should note here that even if the alleged victim recants their accusations (that is, tells the police, the prosecutor, and/or the judge that their accusations of domestic violence are untrue), the state of Massachusetts is still required by law to pursue the case. A recantation is not equivalent to a lack of evidence. Still, much like a shifting story about the facts of a case can undermine the credibility of the accuser, a recanting of their original accusations may benefit your case.
Don’t Wait to Start Building a Defense
As we have noted, you will likely feel a great deal of stress following an arrest for domestic violence. Rather than letting that stress overwhelm you into inaction, your best move is to hire a defense attorney right away. And the attorney you hire should be someone who will listen to you and always think of you as a person rather than merely a client.