COVID-19 & Domestic Violence:  A Potentially Viral Outcome

A lot of consequences of the quarantine measures and stay-at-home orders flowing from the COVID-19 pandemic predictable were predictable:  Economic harm, educational impacts, hoarding at stores, transportation problems, etc.  But as a Massachusetts domestic violence lawyer, I can assure you that an even more disturbing impact awaited in this environment:  Domestic violence.  And it’s not surprising.  The number of phone calls I am getting from clients and potential clients that have been impacted by this not-so-unnatural phenomenon, has been unsettling, to say the least.

As I said, though, it’s not surprising:  Force people into their homes, limit their time outside, with almost no positive news but 24/7 broadcasts of the Apocalypse, doom and despair, and nerves are going to begin to fay.  Tempers are going to flare.  Frustrations are going to break through the surface.  Words are going to be exchanged.  Arguments are going to develop.  Add alcohol to this mix, and it’s downright combustible.  Notably, the Boston Globe recently published an editorial calling for all liquor stores in Massachusetts to be ordered closed until the current stay-at-home orders are lifted. Not a bad idea, in my professional view as a criminal defense lawyer.  All that it’s going to take is a phone call to the police from a next door neighbor or an apartment down the hall, and a series of very legally damaging events is going to take over, with very serious legal consequences.  You see, the subject of domestic violence is so much of a “hot button” issue, that no one in either law enforcement or the judicial system takes them lightly anymore.  Too many high-profile cases of domestic violence covered by the media have completely changed how police respond to these calls, and how District Attorneys’ offices and the courts deal with them.

Once a Massachusetts police department receives a call about a “domestic disturbance”, and a cruiser is dispatched to the scene, the decision has been pretty much already been made by the officers that respond:  Someone is getting arrested here.  The officers may not know which parties will ultimately be arrested, but it’s extremely unlikely that any Massachusetts police officer is going to respond to a domestic violence call, and leave the scene without making an arrest.  In fact, I often see cases where the party arrested, is the person who called police in the first place – the alleged victim.  That’s how aggressive and intolerant of domestic violence police departments are on this subject.

With all the stress that is going on now, nobody needs family violence – -whether physical abuse or emotional abuse.  As a Wrentham District Court domestic violence lawyer, I’ve defended too many of these cases to count, and I can assure people:  They are taken extremely seriously, and prosecuted very aggressively.  So, be smart:  If you’re aggravated by something a family member or significant other has done or not done, take a hike:  Literally.  Go out for run, a walk, take a deep breath – but don’t either start or participate in an argument, because it’s likely to spin out of control, and you’re going to end up needing the professional services of a talented criminal defense lawyer.

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