Parent-Child Testimony

This post will discuss recent changes to Massachusetts law on four legal issues:

Many parents will ask: Can they make me testify against my own daughter or son? Well, it depends on the charge and what occurred, but with the new law, it could easily be no. The reason is on April 13, 2018 Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law S.2371 & H.4012 or An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform. The new law makes several sweeping changes to criminal justice laws in Massachusetts.

Can a parent testify against their minor child?

Section 111 of the new legislation states that a parent is no longer allowed to testify against the parent’s minor child. A minor child is also no longer allowed to testify against the child’s parent in any proceeding before:

  • An inquest
  • A grand jury
  • Trial of an indictment or complaint
  • Any other criminal, delinquency or youthful offender proceeding

In addition, the parent cannot testify as to any communication with the minor child for seeking legal advice.

The child/parent disqualification as provisioned in G.L. c. 233, § 20 has been extended to disqualify a parent from testifying against his or her minor child in a proceeding before:

  • An inquest
  • A grand jury
  • A trial of an indictment or complaint
  • Any other criminal delinquency or youthful offender proceeding unless the victim of the proceeding is a family member and resides in the household

Likewise, a parent is also disqualified from testifying to any communication with the minor child for the purpose of seeking advice regarding the child’s legal rights,even if the victim is a family member who resides in the household.

What is the legal definition of a parent?

A parent is defined as a biological or adoptive parent, stepparent, legal guardian or other person who has the right to act in loco parentis for the child. This expanded definition of a parent also applies to the child disqualification. Additionally, these broadened disqualifications apply to offenses committed after April 13, 2018.

Is an expert needed to determine if someone is drug dependent?

Commonwealth law no longer requires an examination and report from a psychiatrist or physician to determine whether a defendant is a drug dependent person who could benefit from treatment.

Additionally, an examination conducted by an “addiction specialist,” defined as:

  • Licensed physician who specializes in the practice of psychiatry or addiction medicine
  • Licensed psychology
  • A licensed independent social worker
  • Mental health counselor
  • Licensed psychologist
  • Independent social worker
  • Licensed mental health counselor
  • Psychiatric clinical nurse specialist
  • Licensed alcohol and drug counselor
  • Any other qualified professional to evaluate whether an individual is a drug dependent person.

What roll will school resource officers now play with juvenile justice?

In assigning a school resource officer or “SRO” to a child, the chief of police must assign an officer that the chief believes would strive to foster an optimal learning environment and educational community. In assigning an officer, the chief must give preference to officers with prior experience working with children and educators in a school environment and who have received specialized training relating to working with adolescents and children, including cognitive development, de-escalation techniques, and alternatives to arrest and diversion strategies.

The superintendent and the chief of police will need to enter into a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum must, at a minimum, describe the following:

  • The mission statement, goals and objectives of the SRO program
  • The roles and responsibilities of the SROs, the police department, and the schools
  • The process for selecting SROs
  • The mechanisms to incorporate SROs into the school environment, including school safety meetings
  • Information sharing between SROs, school staff, and other partners
  • The organizational structure of the SRO program, including supervision of SROs and the lines of communication between the school district and police department
  • Training for SROs
  • The manner and division of responsibility for collecting and reporting the school-based arrests, citations and court referrals of students to the department of elementary and secondary education

Also, the memorandum of understanding must additionally state that SROs cannot serve as school disciplinarians, as enforcers of school regulations, or in place of licensed school psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors. It must also make clear that SROs cannot use police powers to address traditional school discipline issues, including non-violent disruptive behavior.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

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