Assault and Battery Overview

Events where alcohol is consumed are often flashpoints for the filing of assault and battery charges. Concerts, sporting events, groups of belligerent college students, as well as bars and lounges are places where assault can occur. Assault and battery charges are frequently filed in domestic violence cases, also.

Exactly What Does This Charge Mean?

The first thing you need to know about this crime, is the legal definition in Massachusetts of assault and battery. Most people think that "assaulting" someone means hitting, or striking, them. Not so. Generally speaking, "assault" consists of a threat of some type of violence, not the actual bodily contact itself. A "battery" refers to the actual physical contact of another person without his or her consent. No actual physical harm has to result for an assault & battery charge to be filed. Police Officers don't need this to occur in order to make an arrest. As long as the alleged threat (the assault) is followed by some physical action, such as attempting to push someone -- this can be enough for police officers to make an arrest. The relevant statute in Massachusetts is Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 265. Essentially, this statute states that a person who is found guilty of assault or assault and battery on an individual shall be punished by imprisonment for a maximum of 2 1/2 years in a County Jail/House of Correction or forced to pay a fine of $1,000 or less.

Common, more serious versions of Assault & Battery Charges in Massachusetts Include:

Assault and battery charges can be filed either as a misdemeanor, or as a felony offense. The difference between the two is very severe, principally turning on the punishment involved. Misdemeanor convictions are punishable by incarceration in a County Jail/House of Correction, typically for a maximum of 2 ½ years. Felony convictions are punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for generally more than 2 ½ years. Far worse, a County Jail/House of Correction houses generally low to middle-level offenders; not career criminals or violent offenders. State prison is very much the opposite, and the general environment is very severe. Determining whether misdemeanor or felony assault and battery charges are filed in a given case, depends on several factors, including the scope and severity of injuries involved, as well as whether any weapons were used.

Most people think that the charge of Assault and Battery By Means Of A Deadly Weapon (ABDW) has to involve a gun, a knife or similar. Not true. The charge of Assault and Battery By Means Of A Deadly Weapon can involve virtually any item that can be used as a weapon - a rock, a plate, even a shod foot. Even if a gun was not used in an assault, charges of Assault and Battery By Means Of A Deadly Weapon, or Aggravated Assault and Battery can result in time spent in jail as well as serious financial penalties and fines. A variety of legal issues are considered prior to the filing of a felony assault charge. Many charges of domestic violence involve assault. When one spouse, for example, throws something at the other spouse, charges of assault and battery with a deadly weapon may apply.


Very generally, there are various legal defenses to a charge of assault and battery; whether one or more will be appropriate and effective will depend on the facts presented. These legal defenses can include:

  • Self Defense. Very briefly, a person is allowed to act in self-defense, but must do so "reasonably," which depends on case law. A person cannot claim this defense unless he or she was attacked first, or possessed reasonable apprehension of an imminent attack.
  • Defense of Another. Generally speaking, a person may use that amount of force to protect another person, that he would have been allowed to use to protect himself. Again, case law is determinative of this question.
  • Defense of Property. This refers to one's home or dwelling, not other property, and is sometimes referred to as the "Castle Doctrine." Someone lawfully occupying a dwelling is not required to retreat from the dwelling or use other means to avoid physical combat with an unlawful intruder, as long as two circumstances are present: First, the occupant has a reasonable belief that the intruder is about to cause serious bodily injury to him or her, or to someone else lawfully present in the dwelling; and Second, the occupant uses only "reasonable" force to defend himself or herself, or others lawfully present in the dwelling. The force must be approximately equal to the threat presented.

Assault and Battery, in whatever specific form it is charged, whether with a Dangerous Weapon or not, is a very serious charge in Massachusetts, and it is absolutely not a case that you can resolve on your own without tremendous risks. Regardless of whether the "weapon" is a foot or a gun, you are facing the same serious potential consequences. If charged with this crime, you are facing a substantial risk of serious time in a state prison facility.

Potential Penalties For Assault And Battery Charges

The penalties and punishment that follow a conviction or guilty plea for an assault and battery charge will depend upon the specific type of assault and battery that a defendant is convicted of. As you can see from the partial list above of the most common charges involving assault and battery, these charges can vary widely - and so too do the penalties. Speaking very broadly, the punishments following either a conviction or guilty plea on these crimes can run from probation to over 20 years in state prison.

Make The Right Choice For Your Assault And Battery Defense Attorney

Do not take chances. If you have been arrested or are being investigated by police and think that an assault charge may be filed against you soon, call us at Ph.: (781) 320-0062, or at Ph.: (617) 285-3600, or email us here for a free initial consultation to learn what your legal options are, and how we can help you. You should also click on the "Free Arrest Tip Sheet" display button on the left side of this page, to receive a FREE document listing the most important action steps you need to take if you have either been arrested, or are facing an arrest. This FREE, valuable document will help you to begin to take charge of your situation. Whatever the specific circumstances of the assault charge involved, we make sure that all our clients' legal rights are fiercely defended.

We know how to defend these cases. We know how to negotiate the charges down with the District Attorney, when the facts present this possibility, and we know how to exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution's case. Depending upon the particular facts of your case, there may be motions that we can file to suppress certain evidence, or get the charges altogether dismissed. Regardless, you are advised not to talk to anyone about your case until you've retained the services of a qualified Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer.

If you're facing these kinds of charges, things are already bad enough. Take control of this situation, or it will take control of you. Call us at Ph.: (781) 320-0062, or Ph.: (617) 285-3600, and we'll provide you with a free initial consultation. Or click here for a free consultation. I will personally review the police reports involved, review your version of the incident, and I'll give you my frank opinion regarding your best legal options. I'll tell you upfront what the weak or strong points are in the prosecution's case against you, and I'll tell you how we can help you. I will do all this as part of a free initial consultation for 20-30 minutes, and you'll be under no obligation from there. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by calling us. The sooner we can stand in front of you as your attorneys, the better off you are going to be. Our firm has tried many Assault and Battery, as well as Assault and Battery With a Dangerous Weapon (ABDW) cases. Whatever the severity of the specific assault and battery charge, we will make sure your rights are protected.

We appear before all District and Superior Courts in Eastern Massachusetts.

Westwood and Boston, Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer William D. Kickham has appeared as a legal analyst on a variety of respected media, including Court TV (now In Session on HLN,) Fox News TV-25/Boston, The Boston Herald, WBZ-AM Radio 1030, WCVB-TV5/Boston, Nightside With Dan Rea, Greater Boston With Emily Rooney, Money Matters Radio/Boston, and The Metro Newspaper/Boston. Attorney William D. Kickham is turned to by respected reporters and media organizations in Massachusetts as an authoritative expert in the field of criminal defense law, and the case results he produces for his clients attest to this. Call us today at Ph.: (781) 320-0062, or Ph.: (617) 285-3600, to arrange for a free initial consultation of your case. If the matter is not an emergency, you can email us here for a free initial consult and we will respond to you very promptly.

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