Q: I have to appear for a pretrial for domestic violence and I'm not sure what to say or do.
My wife and I were under a lot of stress and ended up in an argument. While I was sitting on the couch she hit me in the head and so I pushed her. She ended up tripping on a dog bowl and falling down. She was so angry she called 911, told them I pushed her, then hung up refusing to answer when they called back. The police showed up and took me away. The police report made things look worse than they really were. Even my wife said it wasn't as bad as the police were making it out to be. Everything is fine now between my wife and I however I'm not sure how to handle the pretrial. My wife already told the DA's office that she didn't want to press charges and she was willing to stand with me but can't because of having to stay home with our son. I'm just not sure what to do.
A: YOU should not handle the pretrial hearing alone. You really need to have a lawyer and gget one if the COurt willnot give you one. Your arraignment signifies to you that the beginning of a CRIMINAL PROCESS. Neither you nor your wife control the criminal process or the result. The Government/Commonwealth of Massachusetts has initiated an action and your wife is a witness. She does not control the case she is a player in it. The case is not hers to pursue or drop, she is just one part of a system of justice. She does have a right to be heard as a victim as to sentencing and resolution, but as soon as she suggests she doesnt want to prosecute the Office of the District Attorney is likely to disregard those wishes or endeavor to compel you to testify, as they are both protecting her and serving the governments interests in prosecution.There are statewide domestic violence procedures and policies for Judges as well as prosecutors. There are mandated batterers programs in the event of a conviction. Whether or not the DA listens to your wife varies widely as well. Now, that said, the prosecutor still needs evidence to proceed. In some cases even where the woman is unwilling they do proceed. That depends on the information reported onb the 911 call, any medical records, pictures the police took, and statements made to the police that might be admissible about the events. Don't assume that your wife's communication she doesnt want to press is enough. For one, they have no idea if the person that said that IS your wife. She WILL have to go to Court, identify herself and let the COurt know she doesnt wish to proceed. She may not have a right NOT to proceed if the government presses the issue. There are some situations where she cannot be compelled to testify- when she may have a 5th Amendment right not to incriminate herself as to any crime, (as is the case you describe) or where married and may claim spousal immunity, and some other situations not raised here. Those all take place in a Courtroom where she will have to go in and say it on a Court record.
You are truly better off just contacting an attorney to be fact specific to your case. There are many of us here on JUSTIA experienced in these cases you can call. Good luck!
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