Supreme Judicial Court (March 29, 2006)

The accord and satisfaction statute, c. 276, §55, is constitutional and does not violate public policy , because it is a valid exercise of legislative authority. Prior to exercising discretion whether to dismiss a charge based upon the accord and satisfaction agreement, the judge must be informed what "satisfaction" has been received.

The defendant was charged with the assault and battery on his wife. Three months later, the defendant filed an accord and satisfaction executed by his wife. Over the Commonwealth's objection, the District Court judge dismissed the complaint. The Commonwealth appealed. The SJC transferred the case on its own initiative from the Appeals Court.

The Court held that c. 276, §55 (which grants a judge discretion to dismiss a criminal complaint or indictment for certain misdemeanors over the Commonwealth's objection if the victim "acknowledges in writing that he has received satisfaction for the injury") does not violate the separation of powers principles of Article 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and is constitutional because it is "well within the Legislature's 'broad authority to classify criminal conduct, to establish criminal penalties, and to adopt rules of criminal practice and procedure.' "

Although the statute directs only that the injured party "acknowledge in writing that he has received satisfaction for the injury," the judge in exercising discretion whether to dismiss the charge on that basis, must be informed of what "satisfaction" has been received. This may appear in the accord and satisfaction itself, or may be proffered in an affidavit or at a hearing. While the "satisfaction" need not be monetary and may be "de minimis", there nevertheless must be some "credible evidence" as to its nature. The Court also instructed that if a judge dismisses the complaint pursuant to the execution of an accord and satisfaction, "it is important that the record show the reasons for the judge's [decision]. This will permit a determination that the judge properly exercised discretion . . ." A trial judge's decision to dismiss a case based upon an accord and satisfaction is reviewable for an abuse of discretion.