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Domestic Violence in Suffolk County

Domestic violence in Suffolk

In Suffolk County, domestic violence involves violent and aggressive behaviors towards members of the same household. Several offenses may fall under the category of domestic violence, including violent, threatening, physically abusive, or sexually offensive crimes by any individual against a member of their household member. The main factor that transforms a violent or sexual crime into domestic violence is the victim's shared residency or relations with the offender. For instance, while assault and battery may be committed against any individual, it becomes domestic violence if it is committed against a household member. Legally household members include,

  1. Those related by blood or marriage
  2. Those who are or were residing together in the same household
  3. Spouses or previously married individuals
  4. Individuals who had a child together regardless of whether they were married or not
  5. Those in a substantial dating or engagement relationship, as may be determined by a judge.

In 2019, there were 26 sexual assaults, 137 aggravated assaults, 528 simple assaults, one murder, 12 rapes, seven kidnappings, and 14 cases of fondling committed against household members in Suffolk County. This accounts for over 700 cases of domestic violence.

How to Report Domestic Violence in Suffolk County

When an act of domestic violence is occurring, it is considered an emergency. Anyone may dial 911. Residents of Suffolk County or individuals currently in Suffolk County can also report a domestic violence situation to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department at

Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department

20 Bradston Street

Boston, MA 02118

Phone: (617) 635-1000

Fax: (617) 704-6581

Suffolk County also provides different services to assist victims of domestic violence.

Generally, Victims of domestic violence, including anyone aware or a witness of a domestic violence situation, can request assistance on how to report the domestic violence situation through nationwide and statewide hotlines.

Phone (Nationwide hotline): 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

TTY (Nationwide): 1-800-787-3224

Online chat (Nationwide): https://www.thehotline.org/

Phone (Statewide hotline): (877) 785-2020

Phone (For individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing): Dial 711

Phone (National deaf hotline): 1-855-812-1001

Email (National deaf hotline): nationaldeafhotline@adwas.org

Online Chat (National deaf hotline): https://thedeafhotline.org/

How Long Do You Have to Report Domestic Violence in Suffolk County?

An individual may report a domestic violence situation during or after the fact. However, the law bars the prosecution of certain offenses after a specified time frame. This time frame is determined by the Massachusetts limitation statute, MGL Ch. 277 s. 63. For offenses not specifically listed, the time limit is a maximum of six years from the commission of the crime. That is, the offense must be prosecuted within six years after it was committed.

The Law does not specifically mention domestic violence as a stand-alone crime. As a result, the primary time limit for domestic violence cases is six years. Six years is considered the basic time limit because in some cases, it may exceed six years. Because, while the law does not mention domestic violence, some specified offenses also qualify as domestic violence. For instance, the offense of rape must be prosecuted within 15 years. If the rape victim was a member of the offender’s household or a person they were in a substantial relationship with, the rape becomes a domestic violence case and must be brought before the court within 15 years from the date the commission of the offense and not six years.

How to get Domestic Violence Charges Dismissed in Suffolk County

A domestic violence case may be discharged or dismissed with substantial evidence or for lack of proof. The prosecution has an obligation to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the complainant or the prosecution fails to substantiate their claim with evidence, the case will likely fail. The best way to secure a dismissal is through legal representation. The accused may contact a qualified and experienced legal attorney for professional advice and representation. The defense attorney may present arguments to counter or weaken the prosecution’s case, which may include

  1. Lack of corroboration or inverse corroboration. Depending on the circumstances of the case and the evidence before the court, the defense may argue that the prosecution has not presented evidence to support the complainant’s claim. The defense attorney may also present evidence to back up their claim of innocence.
  2. Inconsistent facts: the defense attorney can discredit the prosecution’s case by asking questions on the facts presented and reveal lies, inconsistencies, or omissions, The defense lawyer may also argue that some of the points relied on by the prosecution were either wrong or the prosecution is mistaken.
  3. Self-defense: the defense lawyer may argue that the accused acted in defense of themselves, someone else, or in defense of a property.

If the domestic violence charge succeeds, the offender will be issued an applicable sentence for the offense committed. Assault or Assault and Battery on a family or household member are considered a misdemeanor, punishable by two and a half years in the house of correction, a maximum fine of $5,000, both the fine and imprisonment. Repeat offenders may be sentenced to a maximum of two and a half years in the house of correction or a maximum of five years in the state prison.

The convicted offender may also be subject to a restraining order. The implication of a restraining order includes

  1. Keeping a particular distance from the victim and any child involved
  2. Paying certain fees, such as medical bills and legal costs
  3. Undergoing therapy programs
  4. Temporary visits to the victim and any child involved. Some of such visits might require supervision.

Violating a restraining order may result in jail time, fines, loss of privileges such as occasional visits, or all of these. Although restraining orders usually have an expiry date, the victim may seek an extension, and the abuser may also request the order to be suspended.

What Happens if the Victim Doesn't Show up at the Trial for the Domestic Violence Charge in Suffolk County?

Where the victim is absent in a trial for domestic violence, the court may proceed with the case by listening to the arguments and submissions of both parties. When there is consistent absence, the court may dismiss the charge. However, if the victim’s presence is vital to the case, the court may adjourn the case and require the victim’s attendance on the next adjourned date.

The victim is not always required to appear before the court, especially when there is strong evidence against the offender or when the offender has accepted a plea deal.