Domestic violence awareness has increased significantly over the past couple of decades. As a result, ideas on how to prevent it have been introduced. For example, individuals who are sentenced in relation to a domestic violence incident in Massachusetts are now referred to special programs called Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs). These programs are intended to increase victim’s safety by providing educational groups to help batterers stop their abusive behavior. The following provides a brief overview of what to expect if you are ordered to attend a BIP.
What are BIPs?
Certified BIPs operate in every county in Massachusetts. Under Massachusetts law, when a defendant violates an order not to abuse or have any contact with the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s child or violates a protection order, the individual must be referred to a BIP, unless the judge finds it to be unnecessary or the program indicates that the defendant is not suitable for intervention. If the defendant is ordered to a BIP under a suspended license and fails to attend the program, the original sentence will be re-imposed.
BIPs involve discussion of the damaging effects that domestic violence has on victims and children who witness it. Programs also teach batterers how to use non-abusive action in interacting with partners and children. Massachusetts law specifically states that anger management and substance abuse treatment are not the same as BIPs and cannot be substituted for them. However, if the defendant has a substance abuse problem, courts do have the power to order treatment for that issue, in addition to referring the individual to a BIP.
The program will communicate with the partner of a participant regarding the participant’s attendance and completion of the BIP. BIPs also inform the probation department of the participant’s compliance with program attendance. The partner of a program participant will be informed of any risks or threats of abuse indicated by the abusive partner. This sharing of information is a condition of participation in the program.
Individual BIPs establish their own fee schedules in accordance with Massachusetts Guidelines. BIPs may develop a deferred payment schedule or partial payment plans for individuals who are unable to pay the entire cost of the program upfront. Programs must make provision for indigent clients, which means low-income batterers may potentially attend for free or for a nominal amount. Additionally, free services are also provided for adolescent male batterers.
Information for certified BIPs can be found at the Massachusetts’ Health and Human Services website. The page provides links to program websites and other contact information, as well as what languages are served and whether adolescent services are offered by each program.
Defending Your Rights
If you have been accused of committing domestic violence, you face the potential for significant penalties. While domestic violence is a serious allegation, you still have rights that must be protected. It is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To setup a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office at 617-942-1532. We look forward to hearing from you.