ASSAULT AND BATTERY IN MASSACHUSETTS

In Massachusetts, a person can be charged with assault or assault and battery. It is defined in Massachusetts General Laws chapter 265 section 13A(a). These offenses begin as misdemeanors but can progress to felonies if substantial injury occurs or specific victims are targeted. This article will provide an outline of how Massachusetts defines and punishes assault and battery charges, as well as provide some possible legal defenses to assault and battery charges in Massachusetts.

Is Hitting Someone a Battery or Assault?

The first thing you should know about this crime is the Massachusetts legal definition of assault and battery. The majority of people believe that "assaulting" someone entails hitting or striking them. This is not the case. In general, "assault" refers to the threat of violence rather than the actual bodily contact.

An assault does not need the infliction of bodily harm or even physical contact with another person. An assault, for example, is throwing a punch at someone, even if the punch misses. The victim does not need to be terrified of, or even aware of, the defendant's activities for this sort of assault. In Massachusetts, the offense of Aggravated Assault and Battery is a felony, whereas simple assault and battery is a misdemeanor. With the exception of the aggravating factors, the elements of the two offences are identical.

The second sort of assault is running towards someone with your fists up. The perpetrator must intend to place the victim in fear of bodily danger for this sort of assault, and the action must be properly interpreted as threatening imminent physical harm.

An assault in Massachusetts is defined as: 

      • attempting to use physical force against another, or
      • displaying a desire to use imminent force against another.

 A "battery" is defined as actual physical contact with another person without their consent. For an assault and battery charge to be filed, no actual physical harm has to occur, and is not required for police officers to conduct an arrest. As long as the alleged threat (the attack) is followed by some actual action, such as attempting to push someone, police officers may be able to make an arrest.

A defendant commits assault and battery in Massachusetts when he or she intentionally touches the victim:

     • in a way that is likely to inflict bodily damage, or
     • without the victim's consent.

Hitting someone, for example, would be assault and battery. However, as long as there is physical contact, the victim does not need to receive an injury (no matter how slight). 

A criminal charge for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon is a felony. A charge of assault with a dangerous weapon allows the Commonwealth to pursue an indictment, which moves the case to superior court and increases the possible penalty, including time in prison. Unless there is significant injury to the victim or the defendant has a history of domestic violence or serious crime, most domestic assault and battery cases will be heard in district court.

What Qualifies as a Dangerous Weapon? A dangerous weapon can include items that are normally considered dangerous, such as a knife or baseball bat, but it can also include any item that is not inherently dangerous but was used in a dangerous manner, such as a phone, a person's foot, or any item that was used in the course of an incident in a dangerous way.

In Massachusetts, how are assault and assault-and-battery crimes punished?

The crimes of assault and battery begin as misdemeanors, but the penalties increase when:

     • a dangerous weapon is used
     • the defendant targets a vulnerable victim
     • a protection or restraining order is in place
     • the severity of the harm increases
     • the defendant has prior convictions or
     • the crime is committed in furtherance of a felony

Massachusetts' statutes provide a slew of enhancements for assault and assault-and-battery offenses which will determine whether the case will be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. The criteria given above are a summary of the key upgrades in addition to whether this is a first time assault and battery charge in Massachusetts. In general, the penalties for a conviction or guilty plea on these charges can range from probation to more than 20 years in state prison.

Potential Defenses for Assault and Battery (A&B) Cases in Massachusetts:

In general, there are several legal defenses to an assault and battery charge; whether one or more of them is appropriate and effective will depend on the circumstances of the individual case. Among these legal defenses are:

     • Self-defense: A person is permitted to act in self-defense, but must do so "reasonably," as determined by case law. A person 

       cannot use this defense unless he or she was attacked first or had a reasonable fear of being attacked.

     • Protection of another: In general, a person may use the same level of force to protect another person that he would have used to protect himself.

       Again, case law is determinant in this matter.

     • Property defense: This applies just to one's home or habitation and is sometimes referred to as the "Castle Law." Someone legitimately occupying

       a dwelling is not compelled to flee or use other methods to avoid physical battle with an unlawful intruder if two conditions are met: First, the

       resident has a reasonable belief that the intruder is likely to cause significant bodily harm to him or her or another lawfully present in the

       residence; and Second, the occupant uses only "reasonable" force to defend himself or herself or those lawfully present in the habitation. The

       force must be roughly proportional to the threat.

Get Legal Representation:

Assault and Battery, in whatever form it is charged- whether with a Dangerous Weapon or not- is a very severe offense in Massachusetts, and it is not a situation that you should try to handle on your own. You face the same catastrophic possible repercussions whether the "weapon" is a foot, pistol or hand. If you are accused of this crime, you could face significant time in a jail or state prison.

The Law Office of Patrick J. Regan has extensive experience, resources, and success in defending assault and battery cases in Massachusetts. We know how to exploit the vulnerabilities in the prosecution's case. We will be able to make the best arguments on your behalf in order to secure the best possible outcome in your case. Depending on the facts of your case, we may be able to file motions to suppress specific evidence or have the charges dismissed entirely. If the facts warrant it, we know how to negotiate the charges down with the District Attorney.

Contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation. We will read the police report, get your side of the story, and give you our opinion as to what your best course of action is and how your case is likely to fare in court.