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Domestic Violence in Middlesex County

Domestic violence in Middlesex

Domestic violence or domestic abuse involves causing, threatening, or attempting to cause physical harm, or forcing unwanted sexual relations with a household member. These actions generally include

  1. Any felony
  2. Any misdemeanor involving assault or sexual assault
  3. Any form of assault or assault and battery

Domestic violence in Middlesex County is primarily governed by the Massachusetts State Laws. However, the law does not describe a single offense as domestic violence, rather, any criminal offense committed against a household member is categorized as domestic violence.

Under Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter (Ch.) 209A section (s.) 1, household members include:

  1. Individuals who are married or were once married
  2. People residing together in the same household
  3. Individuals that are related by blood or marriage
  4. People who have a child together regardless of whether they are married to one another or not
  5. Persons in a substantive dating or engagement relationship as may be determined by the relevant court based on certain factors

A police officer has the power to adopt reasonable measures in preventing further domestic abuse if the officer has probable cause to believe a domestic abuse situation is ongoing.

Domestic violence is similar to other types of violent crimes but also distinct. Violent crimes that share similarities with domestic violence include all forms of assault, including assault and battery, and sexual assault. All these crimes involve a measure of physical harm or a threat of such. However, while the victims of assaults can be anyone, domestic violence is perpetrated by the offender against a household member their household.

In 2019, there were 708 cases of aggravated assaults, 93 cases of sexual assaults, 2,334 simple assaults, four murders, 49 kidnappings, 59 rapes, and 27 cases of fondling against household members across Middlesex County. This amounts to over 3,000 cases of domestic violence for the 2019 fiscal year.

How to Report Domestic Violence in Middlesex County

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence or who knows a victim of domestic violence can report the situation through the nationwide or statewide hotlines.

Phone (Nationwide hotline): 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

TTY (Nationwide): 1-800-787-3224

Online chat (Nationwide): https://www.thehotline.org/

Phone (Statewide hotline): (877) 785-2020

Phone (For individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing): Dial 711

Phone (National deaf hotline): 1-855-812-1001

Email (National deaf hotline): nationaldeafhotline@adwas.org

Online Chat (National deaf hotline): https://thedeafhotline.org/

Besides these, affected persons can also contact the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office at

Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office

400 Mystic Avenue, 4th Floor

Medford, MA 02155

Phone: (781) 960-2800

Affected persons can further contact the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office online through the official website.

Middlesex County also provides domestic violence services aimed at assisting victims of domestic violence. However, if the domestic violence situation is an emergency, it is advised that the victim or anyone nearby dials 911 as quickly as possible.

How Long Do You Have to Report Domestic Violence in Middlesex County?

State laws require the prosecution of offenses within the stipulated period or become barred under the statute of limitation. Depending on if the offense committed was a misdemeanor, a felony, or if it was committed against a child or an adult, the statute of limitation could range from 0 to 27 years.

For instance, MGL. Ch. 265 s. 13B provides for the offense of indecent assault and battery of a child below 14 years of age. A parent, or step-parent, who indecently assaults and batters their child or step-child commits the offense of domestic violence. In such an instance, the time frame for prosecution is 27 years, beginning from the time the offense was committed.

When calculating the window of limitation, any period spent outside of Massachusetts does not count. If, for example, the State has a limitation period of 27 years to prosecute an offense of domestic violence, the offender must have spent a total of 27 years within Massachusetts before the State can be barred from filing the case. Any period of days, weeks, months, or years spent outside of Massachusetts is subtracted. In some cases also, where the victim is below 16, the window for filing the case begins when the victim turns 16 or when the offense is reported to law enforcement, whichever is earlier.

How to get Domestic Violence Charges Dismissed in Middlesex County

The prosecution must submit evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the offender is culpable. The offender has the opportunity to defend the charge or present evidence that exonerates them. One of the ways to get a dismissal of a domestic violence charge is to seek legal representation. A skilled and experienced attorney can elicit obvious or subtle facts that may become crucial evidence in favor of the accused. The defense attorney may raise arguments relating to

  1. Self-defense that the accused’s actions were in self-defense or were in a bid to protect someone else, usually the children. Self-defense may also apply to cases of defending a property. However, where the accused is a convicted criminal or has a track record of violent crimes, it may be difficult to persuade the court.
  2. Disputing the facts. The defense attorney may dispute the fundamental facts presented by the prosecution. If the defense lawyer can show that some facts were wrong, exaggerated, or entirely speculative, then this can cast doubts on the prosecution’s argument and make it difficult for the prosecution to prove their case.
  3. Counter argument: the defense attorney can show an inconsistency in the facts presented by the prosecution and also call witnesses or present evidence to counter those claims.
  4. No injuries: This defense is particularly useful where the charge of domestic violence rests on claims of physical harm. The defense could present evidence showing that the accused could not have inflicted the injuries on the victim.

To successfully obtain a dismissal, the defense attorney will usually determine the best defense strategy considering the facts of the case, surrounding circumstances, the accused’s previous criminal history, and other factors.

If convicted, the accused is punishable under applicable laws,

  1. Assault or Assault and Battery on a family or household member Punishment for this offense depends on whether the offender is a first-time or subsequent offender. For first-time offenders, the punishment is a maximum term of two and a half years in the house of correction, or a maximum fine of $5,000, or both the fine and imprisonment. For second and subsequent offenders, the punishment is a maximum term of two and a half years in the house of correction or a maximum term of five years in state prison.

Domestic violence is charged as the crime committed, e.g., rape, assault, sexual assault, and may not result in additional jail terms or fines but may include restraining or emergency orders against the abuser. The effect of a restraining order varies, depending on the order. Restraining orders may

  1. restrict the offender from contacting the victim or coming close to a particular distance around the victim
  2. Require the offender to pay certain costs, which may include medical or legal costs in part or in full
  3. Order the offender to leave the premises where the victim resides
  4. If the abuser and the victim had children together, the restraining order might prevent the offender from visiting the children without permission or supervision. Also, such visits are usually temporary.

Before issuing a restraining order, the court will consider the victim’s request and the victim’s best interest, what is best for the victim in terms of their safety and the safety of any children involved. Disobeying a restraining order is considered acting in contempt of the court, and may result in jail time, fines, and loss of legal privileges such as child visiting rights.

What Happens if the Victim Doesn't Show up at the Trial for the Domestic Violence Charge in Middlesex County?

The absence of the victim at the trial for the domestic violence charge may have different implications, depending on the circumstances of each case. If the victim’s presence is essential to the prosecution’s case, the court may adjourn the case and serve the victim a subpoena to appear in the next hearing. In some cases, the charges may be dismissed.

However, the victim’s presence is not always required for the prosecution to prove their case. Such cases include where there was a witness at the scene of the domestic violence, or there was primary evidence such as a tape recording clearly showing the occurrence of the domestic violence. It also includes situations where the abuser confesses to abusing the victim. In instances where the victim’s presence is not necessary, the court may listen to arguments from both parties, examine the evidence presented, and reach a verdict in favor of either party.