Massachusetts domestic violence charges are one of those types of criminal offenses that can be very vague. When people first hear “domestic violence,” most immediately conjur up images of women being brutally beaten or abused by a spouse or boyfriend. While that can be tragically true, it’s not always necessarily so. “Domestic violence” is an amorphous term. Could you say right now what that term really means? The truth is, that while it can mean violent or harmful physical abuse – in which case it should be prosecuted – sometimes these charges reflect anything but a violent, abusive physical confrontation. Sometimes, the event that occurs is little more than an argument. Yet, people can very easily end up in court facing this kind of charge. As a Boston domestic violence lawyer, I see it all the time.
Why and how does this happen, if what occurred in a given situation really wasn’t violent or “abusive,” (as most reasonable people would interpret that term)? Two answers: 1) Hyper-caution, and 2) Liability issues. You see, in days gone by (the “bad old days,”) when a couple got in an argument and police were called, officers used their discretion in deciding whether or not to arrest someone accused at the scene of domestic violence or Massachusetts assault and battery charges. If police sensed that what occurred between the couple was very minor and did not present a safety issue for either person, they would typically de-escalate the situation, urge the couple to resolve their conflict, and, if they felt neither partner’s safety was threatened, they’d leave, file a report, and no one would be arrested.
Or, when an arrest was made, the case would be dealt with very lightly by prosecutors and judges. Then, some time later (perhaps months, perhaps a couple of years,) that same couple would have another fight, and one of them (usually the woman, but not always,) would end up being severely beaten or killed. For those of you unfamiliar with public relations, that results in front-page news and political outcry. Whose picture ends up on the front page and in news broadcasts? A) The judge who let the defendant off easily; B) The District Attorney who didn’t prosecute the case aggressively enough and C) The city or town Police Chief, whose officers didn’t make an arrest when called to the scene. Result? Big trouble, for a lot of people. Worse, on a financial level municipalities began being sued by victims of domestic violence, who claimed negligence on the part of the city or town police department, for not arresting the accused abuser.