As discussed in prior blog posts, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed Senate Bill 2334 in August. The bill created new criminal charges related to domestic violence. It amends chapter 265 to create two new crimes: assault and battery on household members as well as suffocation and strangulation.
Under the new bill, a conviction for first-time assault or assault and battery on a “family or household member” may result in a sentence of two and a half years of imprisonment in the house of correction and a fine of up to $5,000. Family and household members are those people who are married, those who have a child together, and those who are engaged or in a “substantive dating relationship.” The court must also order a convicted defendant to complete a certified batterer’s intervention program, unless it makes written findings that show good cause why this requirement need not be met.
The bill also created a new crime of strangulation or suffocation of any other individual and aggravated strangulation. In the past, strangulation or suffocation could be charged as either felony attempted murder or as simple assault and battery. The new law recognizes that in domestic violence contexts, one partner may strangle the other not to kill the victim, but in order to exert dominance and cause pain and panic that can be used to control the victim. The person committing the strangulation is trying to torture the victim, rather than attempt to murder him or her. However a prosecutor’s only alternative to charging attempted murder was to charge “simple assault and battery.” This is only a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.
If convicted of the new felony of strangulation, a defendant convicted for the first time can be punished with a term of up to five years in state prison, two and a half years in a house of correction, and a fine of up to $5,000. When there is domestic abuse, a batterer’s program is also required.
However, when an offender is a repeat offender, the new law sentences convicted offenders to up to 10 years in state prison, two and half years in a house of correction, and a fine of up to $10,000. This sentence also applies to an aggravated strangulation charge. Aggravated strangulation is charged when the actions result in serious physical injuries, when there is a pregnant victim, or when there is an existing protective order.
As previously mentioned on this blog, there are also other controversial provisions in the new law. One of these prohibits the public revealing of any information related to domestic violence or sexual assault, including the new crimes of strangulation and assault on a family member. The goal of this rule is to protect victims from humiliation and any harassment by supporters of the person to be charged with domestic violence.
Domestic violence charges can be particularly difficult for defendants because of their relationships with the victims. Emotions run high, and it is important to find an attorney who understands a conviction can cost you not only your liberty, but also your family.
If you are arrested for domestic violence, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss your Massachusetts criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.
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