A charge of assault and battery on a family member, often called domestic violence, can cause problems even if you are never convicted. Different from a violent crime case, from the moment you're arrested, the rest of your life hangs in the balance. Your relationships with your friends, family, and coworkers may be altered even before your first appearance in court—and the damage only increases if you are found guilty of domestic violence.
Consequences of a Domestic Assault Conviction
Massachusetts law takes a hard line when punishing those convicted of assault on a family member. If you plead guilty or are convicted by a judge or a jury, you may be facing:
- Jail time. A first offense of misdemeanor domestic assault carries a sentence of up to 2.5 years in a house of correction, while second and further offenses are punishable by up to 5 years in state prison, making a second offense a felony. If the assault and battery was committed using a dangerous weapon, you may be sentenced to up to 10 years in the state prison—even for a first offense.
- Fines and treatment programs. First-time domestic violence can result in a fine of up to $5,000, with penalties increasing on further charges. If you admit guilt or accept a plea on domestic assault and battery charges, you will likely be ordered to complete 16 weeks of anger management counseling or 40 weeks in a Certified Batterer's Program as part of your probation.
- Restraining orders. After a charge of domestic assault is brought, the victim has the right to request a 209A restraining order. This order requires you to stay a certain distance away from the victim, the victim's house, and the victim's place of work. It may also require you not to contact the victim through calls, texts, or through a third-party messenger. If you do anything contrary to the terms of the restraining order, you will be facing a further criminal charge punishable by 2.5 years in the house of correction. All convictions for 209A violations require a judge to either order completion of a Certified Batterer's Program, or state on the record why the program was not ordered in the case.
- Divorce. If your spouse or partner was the subject of the domestic assault charge, they may file for divorce while your case is still pending. Depending on the timeline of your criminal case, you may not be able to attend divorce court, giving your partner free rein over the proceedings.
- Lost child custody. Your partner may request sole custody of your shared children in divorce proceedings based on incidents of abuse. When a parent has committed a serious act of abuse or multiple violent offenses, the divorce court may consider that parent an "abusive parent." Once you have been labeled an abusive parent, the court may deny you both custody and visitation with your children.
- Termination of parental rights. Even if you don't have physical custody of your children, you still have the legal right to make decisions about their living arrangements, healthcare, schooling, and upbringing. However, the court has the ability to terminate an abusive parent's parental rights if that parent is convicted of any assault that results in serious bodily injury to a child, repeated acts of abuse against a child, or manslaughter or murder of the child's parent.
- Lost career prospects. Conviction does not only result in the loss of your current job, but the loss of further employment due to mandatory reporting of your criminal conviction on future job applications. You will also be disqualified from working in certain industries, such as education, medical practice, social work, and jobs with high-level security clearance.
- Lost firearm privileges. A domestic assault conviction in Massachusetts will result in permanent loss of your right to own a gun, carry a gun, or otherwise possess firearms.
The Help You Need Now to Protect Your Future
There are many possible defenses to domestic assault charges, but it will take the help of an experienced attorney to build a defense based on the facts of your case. At Nate Amendola Defense, we carefully review the evidence, ask the right questions, and fight aggressively in court to avoid conviction and minimize the effects of criminal charges on your life. Contact us today to set up your free case review.