Accusations of domestic violence are treated very seriously in Massachusetts courts. Police and prosecutors are known to bring significant criminal charges, including felony offenses, against individuals accused of domestic abuse. Charges of domestic violence can substantially affect both a person’s home and work life. Further, domestic charges can later be used in divorce proceedings, custody battles, civil suits, and other contexts to improve the standing of one party to the detriment of the other.
In addition to criminal charges, a person alleging domestic abuse can also seek a restraining order against their partner or family member. In fact, the police typically advise accusers to seek restraining orders in domestic cases. Restraining orders, while civil and not criminal in nature, have serious repercussions to the opposing party. Again, the alleged victim can seek to use the restraining order as leverage in other legal contexts. Further, if the alleged victim later alleges a violation of the restraining order, the defendant will likely be charged with additional criminal offenses. With new criminal charges before the court, a judge may revoke previous orders of bail and send the accused to jail pending trial.
In 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted a new “Act Relative to Domestic Violence.” This law created new crimes for police and prosecutors to use in charging individuals accused of domestic abuse and increased the potential jail and prison sentences upon conviction for domestic offenses. The law also changed the arraignment and bail procedures by making it easier for both the police and the courts to detain people accused of domestic abuse. Finally, the law created a statewide database for people accused of domestic abuse; only an acquittal at trial, a “no bill” by a grand jury, or a judicial finding of lack of probable cause will result in removal from the statewide database. An ordinary dismissal will not result in removal from the database.