Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Allegations of domestic violence are some of the most emotional cases in all of criminal law. These cases, which, by definition involve close relationships, raise a variety of issues that are not present in other cases. However, the complexities of domestic violence offenses also give rise to many possible defenses. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy is a dedicated Boston criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience developing effective defenses to domestic violence charges.Domestic Violence in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, a domestic violence crime involves certain types of offenses committed against household members. Under state law, the term “household member” refers to any of the following:
- Current or former spouses;
- Those who live together, or lived together at any time;
- Those related by blood or marriage;
- Those who have a child together; and
- Those who were a dating relationship at any point.
By definition, domestic violence crimes involve a situation in which you have or had a close relationship with the alleged victim. This can make defending against these charges difficult. However, there are several effective defenses to allegations of domestic violence.Common Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
As with any crime, domestic violence offenses have their own defenses. Before a judge or jury can convict you of a crime, the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. To do this, they will rely on evidence. While most people think of evidence as physical evidence, witness testimony can be enough to convict you. Thus, defenses to domestic violence charges involve either challenging the evidence itself or arguing that the evidence does not prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Most defenses to domestic violence charges fall into one of the following three categories:Attacking the Credibility of Witnesses
When a witness takes the stand, they take an oath to tell the truth. However, it probably comes as no surprise that not all witnesses take this oath seriously. In domestic violence cases, in particular, witness credibility, or the witness’s truthfulness, is often suspect.
In a domestic violence trial, the prosecution will call the witness to testify to what happened. This is called direct-examination. After the prosecutor is finished asking the witness questions, your attorney will have the opportunity to ask the witness questions during cross-examination. Cross-examination is crucial to exposing a witness’s bias.Self Defense and Defense of Others
In Massachusetts, it is illegal to unlawfully assault another person. In some cases, inflicting physical harm is justified, such as when you are defending yourself or another person. Once you raise a valid self-defense claim, the burden is on the prosecution to disprove the defense. If they cannot, you cannot be found guilty of the crime.
To raise a valid claim of self-defense, you must show that you reasonably believed you were being attacked or about to be attacked and that you acted reasonably in using the force. This includes a duty to retreat whenever possible and a duty to use only the necessary level of force when confronted by an attacker.Challenging the Admissibility of Evidence
In some Boston domestic violence cases, the prosecution will attempt to strengthen their case by introducing evidence other than the alleged victim’s testimony. This may be text messages or social media posts you sent or prior disputes between you and the alleged victim. If police or detectives took a statement from you, this too could be used against you.
A criminal defense lawyer can help prevent the admissibility of harmful evidence by litigating a motion to suppress. For example, if detectives took a statement from you while you were under arrest but failed to read you your rights, the statement may be inadmissible. Similarly, just because a witness says that you sent text message to them doesn’t mean that the messages can come into evidence; the prosecution must prove that the messages are authentic and relevant to the case.Are You Facing Domestic Violence Charges in Boston?
If you were recently arrested and charged with a crime after someone close to you called the police, contact Attorney Patrick J. Murphy. For more than two decades, Attorney Murphy has represented clients facing all types of violent crimes, giving him an impressive understanding of the most effective defenses to domestic violence charges. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Patrick Murphy, call (617) 367-0450. You can also reach him through the firm’s online contact form.