Avoiding a Conviction by Agreement in Massachusetts: Accord and Satisfaction

August 5, 2011

1097209_shaking_hands.jpgA criminal complaint issues against you for assault and battery toward another individual. Can you later go to court and file an agreement between the parties that ends the case over the prosecutor's objection? The short answer is yes. That's exactly what happened in the case of Commonwealth v. Guzman, 446 Mass. 344 (2006). In the Guzman case a husband allegedly committed an assault and battery against his wife. The police arrived and observed that the defendant's wife had an injury to her eye. They arrested the husband for domestic assault and battery. The defendant husband's lawyer subsequently filed and "accord and satisfaction" agreement with the court and the judge dismissed the case pursuant to G.L. c. 276 s. 55 which essentially states that under certain circumstances the court may, in its discretion, dismiss the complaint against the defendant where the parties have voluntarily entered into an accord and satisfaction.

The case was appealed by the prosecutor but the lower court's judgment was affirmed in favor of the defendant. The law was held constitutional because the court found that the statute did not violate separation of powers or the prosecutor's ability to prosecute the case. To be successful, the injured party must appear before the court and acknowledge, in writing, that he or she has been satisfied. The court will inquire into the matter and decide whether or not to accept the agreement.

The accord and satisfaction statute only applies to misdemeanor cases for which a party may be liable in a civil action. The crime must also not have been committed against a law enforcement officer or by a defendant who intended to commit a felony. The judge has the discretion to accept or reject the accord and satisfaction agreement and the court must be informed of what "satisfaction" has been received by the injured party. This can be done in writing in the agreement or an affidavit or by testimony at a hearing. The injured party need only acknowledge that they have received satisfaction for an injury and indicate in the agreement that the charges should be dismissed.

The accord and satisfaction statute ultimately allows for a civil resolutions to misdemeanor offenses which generally pertain to assault and battery charges but can be used in other cases. The prosecution generally objects to such agreements and there is pressure from domestic abuse organizations to prohibit or limit such agreements. Therefore it is crucial to have an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney on board to carefully draft and accord and satisfaction agreement that will be acceptable to the court in the appropriate circumstances.

The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, Esq. is conveniently located at 11 Beacon Street, Suite 1210 Boston, MA 02108. Attorney Murphy is an aggressive and experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer who knows how to handle delicate cases involving accord and satisfaction agreements. Attorney Murphy may be able to help you avoid criminal prosecution under certain circumstances. Contact Attorney Murphy today by submitting your contact information under the contacts tab on the website or by calling Attorney Murphy at 617-367-0450 for a free and confidential legal consultation on your case.