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Getting a Domestic Violence Charge Dismissed in MA

Posted on August 27, 2021 in

Domestic violence is a terrible crime with far-reaching impacts. Too many domestic violence accusations, however, are baseless and made in the heat of the moment by an angry spouse or family member. This leads to many cases being stuck in the criminal justice system that should not be there. In these situations, the person who made the allegation often calls the police or an attorney to try to dismiss the charges. With a domestic violence case, however, it takes more than someone rescinding the accusations to have the charges dismissed.

What if the Accuser Retracts the Allegations?

The alleged victim of domestic violence or assault does not have the power to have charges dismissed in MA. Unlike many other types of cases, a domestic violence case will proceed even if the accuser retracts his or her allegations or changes the story. It is up to the courts to decide whether or not to continue with the domestic violence charges, no matter what the alleged victim says. This rule is in place as a safeguard against a situation where a couple goes through a “honeymoon phase” after a fight.

If the main person who initiated the domestic violence case does retract their story, this can increase the chances of the case ultimately being dismissed. Since the alleged victim is typically the main witness for the prosecution, without this witness’s cooperation, the prosecution may not have any other evidence on which to base domestic violence charges. This could lead to case dismissal.

It is still the court’s decision whether or not to proceed with the charges. There may be other evidence available, such as an eyewitness who reported the fight or photographs of injuries that were allegedly caused by domestic abuse. There are many cases where a judge refuses to dismiss domestic violence charges or to terminate a no-contact order, even after the alleged victim has admitted that the accusation was false.

What Must Be Proven in a Domestic Violence Case?

If the courts do decide to proceed with a domestic violence criminal case against the defendant, they have the burden of proof. This means it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to provide evidence that proves the necessary elements for a domestic violence conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to meet this burden of proof, the case will either be dismissed or the defendant will be found not guilty by a jury (an acquittal).

In Massachusetts, the elements necessary to prove a domestic violence case are:

  • An abusive behavior took place. Abusive behavior can refer to physical or nonphysical abuse. Examples include threats, intimidation, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and isolation.
  • The defendant had the intent to harm the victim. Intent must be proven for a successful criminal case. If the harm or injury inflicted upon the victim was accidental, no crime was committed.
  • The victim and the defendant were family or household members. For a case to constitute domestic violence, the two parties must have been residing in the same household, married to one another, had a common child together, had a previous romantic relationship, or been related by blood or marriage.

The criminal justice system imposes the highest burden of proof for the plaintiff’s side of the case. Meeting this burden in a domestic violence case in Massachusetts requires evidence. To have domestic violence charges dismissed, therefore, the defense attorney may try to prove that the allegations were fabricated or that the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to support the charges. The defense strategy used, however, will depend on the specifics of the case.

If you or a loved one has been charged with domestic violence in MA, contact a Middlesex County domestic violence defense attorney right away for a free consultation. An attorney can review your case and go over potential ways to have the charges dismissed.