Domestic Assault cases (usually referred to as Assault and Battery on a Family Member) are heard in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations court. This court is designed specifically for the purpose of handling cases involving family or household members. The resolutions in this court tend to be more creative and there are generally more options to explore in adjudicating the case than just simply going to trial.
Domestic violence cases usually involve people who are part of a romantic or family relationship. To be charged with Assault and Battery on a Family Member, you must be related to or living with the alleged victim. These cases are made more difficult by this family or personal dynamic. Usually people involved these situations want to work out their relationship on their own without the court’s involvement.
It is a common misconception that the victim(s) may simply drop assault charges. Once law enforcement is involved and an individual has been charged, only a Commonwealth Attorney or Judge can dismiss those charges. While a prosecutor can make the decision to dismiss a case once it is brought into court it is not usually enough for a victim to state that they would like to drop the charges.
Anyone who changes their story can face potential obstruction of justice charges. If someone tells one story under oath and then later recants or changes their story, they could face the charge of perjury.
Depending on the unique factors such as who was present when it happened and whether minors were involved, different agencies such as Child Protective Services can get involved in these cases. There is also the local probation office that specializes in dealing with domestic assault cases. Sometimes defendants in these cases will be required to report to Pretrial Services pending their court date. The process can be different in each jurisdiction. It’s important to have an attorney who understands these differences and also how these programs work in each unique jurisdiction.
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