If the Alleged Victim No Longer Wishes to Press Charges, Would That Impact My Case?
An alleged victim wanting to drop the charges can certainly affect your case. If the alleged victim is your spouse, they can exercise their marital privilege and tell the district attorney or the police they’re no longer going to cooperate and will not testify against their spouse. If, however, the alleged victim is not involved in a marital relationship with you (the defendant), it can be a little harder to get the district attorney to drop the case, but it’s not entirely impossible. Whatever reason they provide for no longer wishing to pursue the charges (they have other commitments, they’re going out of state, etc.), the district attorney’s office is going to look at that very closely.
The alleged victim might also claim a Fifth Amendment privilege – meaning, the alleged victim could be prosecuted for criminal conduct if they testified at a trial. An example of this would be where a defendant is charged with assault and battery, but if an alleged victim were to testify, the alleged victim would be admitting they were the first person to throw a punch and hit the other person. If the alleged victim indicates to the court that they wish to invoke this right, the judge will typically appoint an attorney to speak to the alleged victim and determine whether they do have a Fifth Amendment privilege. If the court is satisfied that the alleged victim has a valid Fifth Amendment privilege and wants to assert that privilege, the court would then accept the alleged victim’s representation that they have a valid Fifth they want to exercise. Once accepted, the DA will often be forced to dismiss the cases unless there were other percipient witnesses to the incident.
The DA can often counter a victim’s wish to drop the charges by using a 911 call as an “excited utterance” by the alleged victim to report an incident. In these cases, the court has a hearing to determine if the 911 call should be admitted into evidence, and if the call is admitted, the case can go forward regardless of whether or not an alleged victim wants to testify. It’s really the prosecution who decides if the case should go forward in those situations, not the alleged victim.
Sometimes, and now particularly with the COVID-19 environment, an alleged victim might give an affidavit or make an oral statement to the district attorney’s office to ask them to dismiss a case. The DA’s decision will depend in large part on whether there was any prior history of domestic violence and if the defendant has any type of criminal record.
What Are the Potential Penalties or Sentencing Guidelines in Massachusetts for Convictions Related to Domestic Violence?
In Massachusetts, a first domestic-violence-related offense (such as violation of a restraining order or assault and battery on a household member) is looking at a maximum sentence of up to two and a half years in the house of correction. Subsequent offenses for certain of those predicate charges might face up to five years in state prison.
For more information on Domestic Violence in Massachusetts, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (508) 503-6440 today.
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