What are the potential penalties for an assault and battery conviction?
Assault and/or battery charges carry the same penalties. They are both considered misdemeanors, or a lesser crime. The penalty is up to two and half years in the house of correction. However, most people with a first offense or minor record would usually be eligible for some type of probation, if convicted.
There are enhanced penalties for other types of assault and battery. Some examples of this would include, cases where you caused serious bodily injury; or commit an assault and battery on a pregnant person; or on a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend; or a person under age fourteen; or a person over the age of sixty; or a mentally handicapped person; or if you use a dangerous weapon; or if you commit an indecent assault and battery; or on a person that has an active restraining order against you.
What are the potential criminal defenses used in assault and battery cases?
These types of cases usually involve witness testimony from the people involved in the altercation. We often defend these cases by attacking the credibility of the witness testimony. Could the witness actually see what they claimed? Can the witness identify our client as being involved or just present nearby? Does the witness have a criminal record or some stake in the outcome which might call into question whether they are being truthful?
Sometimes, the only witness is the alleged victim. Many times, the alleged victim was the aggressor in the fight or made some sort of threat against our client or someone close to him or her. We can use this to show that our client was acting in self-defense or defense of another person. Also, in such circumstances, the alleged victim may choose not to testify, for fear they could be prosecuted for their own conduct. In many of these cases, we will seek criminal charges against the alleged victim for their role in the fight or altercation.
If the alleged victim retracts their statement, are charges automatically dropped?
No. Unfortunately, once the case is brought to court, the only entity that can automatically drop a case is the government, or the district attorney. However, in most assault and battery cases the prosecutor relies on the victim’s testimony to prove their case. Where a victim refuses to cooperate; recants their statement; or changes their statement, the case will be much more difficult for the prosecutor to prove. Many of these cases will be dismissed prior to trial.
How do you advise clients who want to plead guilty to an assault charge?
I think it is a bad idea to just give up and plead guilty in the early stages of a case. You need an attorney who is going to know the law and advocate for your rights. Many times, we review the evidence and discover there is not enough evidence for a conviction. Sometimes certain evidence that the prosecutor would rely on we can get excluded for technical reasons. These are things the average person would not know. A good lawyer will be able to spot these issues, and make sure that only legally sufficient evidence is admitted, and that you are not convicted, unless they have enough proper evidence for that conviction.
Should someone hire an attorney even if they plan on pleading guilty?
You are not required to have an attorney. However, I would not recommend going to court without a criminal defense lawyer. The laws surrounding criminal cases and the rules of evidence are very complex. Good criminal defense lawyers can help you navigate these laws and ensure you the best results. Further, under our laws including the Constitution of United States, you are under no obligation to speak at all. “I want to tell the truth”, is a bad idea, because anything you say can be used against you at trial. Oftentimes your own statements will help the district attorney to fill in the gaps in their case. Your own words will help them prove their case against you. It is not a great idea to do this on your own without having good legal representation.
What sets your criminal defense firm apart in handling assault and battery charges?
We have handled literally hundreds, if not thousands of these cases. Knowing all the rules of the game, we are going to fight hard for the person, and ensure the best possible outcome. Our first job as your criminal defense attorney is to find a way to win the case. That is how we handle each and every criminal case. If we cannot win the case, we seek the best possible results, such as some form of probation, and the least amount of punishment possible.
How serious is an assault charge if there is a restraining order against the accused?
An assault and/or battery charge can be very serious if there is an active domestic restraining order. Restraining orders are civil orders that are issued in cases where a person is ordered to stay away from, not abuse, and/or have no contact with the person who sought the order. The person who seeks the order must be a family or household member; related by blood or marriage; and/or be in a substantive dating relationship with the person against whom they are seeking the restraining order. To get a restraining order, the person seeking it must demonstrate to a judge that they are in imminent fear for their safety. You will have the opportunity to contest the issuance of a restraining order at a hearing. However, once it is issued and it has been served upon you, any violations become a separate criminal offense. Further, if someone commits an assault and battery upon a person who has an active restraining order against them, there is an enhanced penalty of up to fifteen years in state prison. This crime is a felony in Massachusetts.
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