According to an article in the MetroWest Daily News, two women in Framingham were recently arrested for separate assaults against each other. One of the women called police and reported that her ex-girlfriend had assaulted her at her home and stolen several items. A warrant was issued for the ex’s arrested, but the police were unable to locate her at the time. Several days later, the police were called to the ex’s apartment for a report of a loud argument between two women. When the police arrived, they found both the woman and her ex. Police arrested the ex on the existing arrest warrant, which charged her with one count of larceny and two counts of assault and battery. When she got to the police station, however, the ex told police that the woman had come to her house and punched her in the face. Following these allegations, the police arrested the woman on one count of assault and battery.
Whether one or both of the women is telling the truth, it is unlikely that the Commonwealth will be able to successfully prosecute either of them. The women are considered cross-complainants. In other words, they are both charged as defendants in the alleged incidents, but are also the alleged victims. Prosecuting cross-complaints can be a somewhat complicated process because there are potential Fifth Amendment issues for both of the involved parties.
The Fifth Amendment states that a person cannot be compelled to testify against herself if that testimony is potentially incriminating and/or could result in criminal prosecution. In the woman’s case against the ex, there do not appear to be any other witnesses that could testify to the ex’s alleged criminal conduct. Therefore, the Commonwealth would presumably seek to call the woman to the stand to testify against the ex. Because the woman is facing criminal charges herself, however, she appears to have a Fifth Amendment privilege and could refuse to testify. Similarly, because there do not appear to be any other witnesses who could testify to the allegations the ex made against against the woman, the Commonwealth would presumably seek to call the ex to the stand to testify against the woman. Because the ex is also facing criminal charges, however, she likewise has a Fifth Amendment privilege and could refuse to testify. While both women could decide to waive their Fifth Amendment privileges and testify against each other, this doesn’t typically happen; cross-complaint cases tend to be dismissed, as people generally do not want to waive their respective privilege and take the risk of their testimony being used against them in their own criminal case.
No matter what the women choose to do, they will both need the assistance of a skilled defense attorney who can properly advise them of their options, and the risks and benefits of exercising these options. Attorney Daniel Cappetta is a former prosecutor and has been practicing criminal defense for many years; he has litigated cross-complaint cases in both roles and therefore knows how these types of cases are handled by the Commonwealth, and by the defense. If you or a loved one is involved in a cross-complaint, Attorney Cappetta can use his experience to help you obtain the best outcome possible in your case. Call him for a free consultation today.