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In Massachusetts, Domestic Assault and Battery is classified as Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member.  It is defined in Massachusetts General Laws c 265 Section 13 M. This article will provide an outline of how Massachusetts defines and punishes Domestic Assault and Battery, as well as provide some possible legal defenses to Domestic Assault and Battery charges in Massachusetts.


For the first occurrence, domestic assault and battery is a misdemeanor. A second offense is considered a felony.

People who have previously been convicted of Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member face harsher penalties under Massachusetts law. If a person has previously been convicted, they must complete a certified batterer’s program at their own personal expense (This can cost $3,500 or more), unless a court orders a batters program not to be imposed.

How must Domestic Assault and Battery cases be proven in Massachusetts?

A prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction for domestic assault and battery:

  • The defendant touched the victim or intentionally engaged in actions which caused injury to the victim

  • The defendant intentionally touched the victim or that the defendant’s actions constituted reckless conduct

  • The touching of the victim was either offensive or likely to cause bodily harm

  • The defendant and the victim are members of the same family or were household members at the time of the offense.

Who is considered a family or household member in Massachusetts?

Courts in Massachusetts define family or household members as people who either:

  • Are or were married to each other in the last five years

  • Are or were living together in the last five years

  • Are related

  • Have at least one child in common

  • Are or were in a substantive dating relationship in the last five years

What is the penalty for Domestic Assault and Battery in Massachusetts?

For a first offense, a defendant who commits assault and battery on a family or household member risks up to two and a half years in jail and a $5,000 fine. A second or subsequent offense is considered a felony and can result in a five-year prison sentence.

What are some defenses to the charge of Domestic Assault and Battery in Massachusetts?

The charge of domestic assault and battery in Massachusetts can be defended in a number of ways. Common defenses to domestic assault and battery in Massachusetts include:

  • Self-defense: This is the most common legal defense among domestic assault and battery charges. Courts will consider who was the aggressor, and if the defendant was merely trying to protect themselves or someone else.   

  • Accidental contact: In Massachusetts, the prosecution must prove that the touching was intentional.

  • Consensual: It is a defense if the alleged victim consented to the touching.

  • Not a “family or household member”: It is also a defense if you can show that the alleged victim is not a family or household member as defined by law.

If you or someone you know has been charged with Domestic Assault and Battery in Massachusetts, it is important to consult with an experienced Massachusetts criminal attorney. An experienced criminal attorney can help you understand the criminal process, the charges, and potential defenses. The Law Office of Patrick J. Regan has 30 years of extensive experience dealing with all types of domestic violence cases in Massachusetts. Contact Regan Law today for a free consultation. We will sit down with you, review the police report, and get your side of the story. We will then assess your case and give you advice specific to your situation.

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