Interviewer: Let’s say I’m involved in a situation that was either an assault or domestic violence, can you give me an idea of what sort of plea agreements might be offered?
Lauren Scardella: It firstly depends on whether the case is being heard in Superior Court or Municipal Court. If it’s a Municipal Court case, sometimes we’ll be able to get something called a deferred disposition. It means that the court would hold the complaint open a period of time, often 6 months. If the defendant completes certain requirements, such as anger management or counseling and there are no further domestic violence complaints during that period, then the charge could be dismissed when the 6 months is over. Sometimes, when a victim is unwilling to testify, the prosecutor dismisses the complaint, but a victim’s unwillingness to testify or a desire to “drop the charges” doesn’t always result in a dismissal. As I mentioned before, the prosecutor has the right to compel the testimony of the victim.
A Victim May be Compelled to Testify in a Domestic Violence Case
There are prosecutors who are not really satisfied with the idea of dismissing merely because a victim does not wish to testify and will attach some conditions to the dismissal. Or the prosecutor could compel the testimony of the victim at a trial and cross-examine him or her based on their prior statement to the police at the time of the incident.
In Superior Court, if somebody is a first offender, they might be offered pre-trial intervention and if they’re not eligible for PTI they may be offered probation. Usually there is an anger management component to it and maybe a psychiatric evaluation. The Defendant has to comply with any recommendations that are made to continue counseling or treatment. So, the focus is about mostly about preventing it from happening again. If it’s a really egregious case or somebody is very seriously injured, jail time is absolutely a possibility.
Rehabilitative Programs Offered in the Event of Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Interviewer: What sort of conditions are going to be imposed if, for instance, drugs and/or alcohol were used, are there going to be any classes or seminars that someone’s going to have to attend?
Lauren Scardella: Yes. There might be a drug or alcohol evaluation and counseling and maybe a requirement that they attend NA or AA meetings. Additionally, a standard condition of probation is that a person submit to random urine testing for drug and alcohol use. A positive test may result in a Violation of Probation being issued, which means another trip before the judge. If a person is convicted of the violation of probation, additional conditions could be added to the probation, or the judge could decide to send the person to jail for the remainder of their sentence.
Participating in Rehabilitative Programs Beforehand Can be a Mitigating Factor in Domestic Violence Cases
Interviewer: Does that hinder someone? Is that like an automatic admission of guilt if someone started counseling or AA beforehand?
Lauren Scardella: No, it’s not an admission of guilt. It is something that a prosecutor would look kindly on if they were to do that prior to a case going to court because it shows willingness to change and an attempt to keep the situation from recurring.
Attending Counseling Sessions is Not Perceived as an Admission of Guilt by Prosecutors
You can ask any police officer in any town where they go on domestic violence calls the most and there’s going to be a handful of people that they see repeatedly. So, to do it beforehand, is not a bad thing. It’s definitely looked on by most prosecutors as that they’re really trying. The same thing with drug or alcohol related offenses and somebody goes to rehab or starts going to AA meetings beforehand, it’s not an admission of guilt but it is a sign to the prosecutor that they are trying to make things better.