In Massachusetts, assault refers to a threat of some type of violence, not the act of physically touching another person. Battery, on the other hand, consists of making actual physical contact with someone else without his or her consent. You can be arrested and charged with assault and battery even if there was no physical harm done to the other person.
An assault is also referred to as an attempted battery. For example, if you try to hit someone, but you do not make contact (i.e. miss), that is an assault. Assault can also be where you make a threatening action towards a person, with the purpose of causing them to be in fear that they are going to be hit. For example, when you raise your fist to a person in a way that makes them think you are going to punch them.
Battery is defined as an intentional, unwanted touching. Most people think it is strictly being punched, kicked, or something like that. However, touching can be considered battery. For instance, if you spit on someone, that will be considered a battery.
Also, with regard to battery, if you do something reckless, which causes someone to be hit, that is a battery. Even if you did not intend to hit anyone it will be considered battery as long as you intended the initial reckless act to happen. For example, you throw something out of a window to a crowded street. If you hit someone on the street it will be considered a battery.
Different Levels of Assault and Battery Charges in Massachusetts
There are different types of assault and battery charges in Massachusetts. Simple assault and battery charges are both misdemeanors. However, there are other types which have enhanced penalties. 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. There are additional crimes if you commit assault, and battery upon either a police officer, or any other public service employee. These all carry greater penalties and most are considered felonies.
Massachusetts recognizes several different, more serious forms of assault and battery, including:
- Aggravated Assault and Battery
- Assault and Battery Upon a Child
- Assault and Battery Upon a Police Officer
- Indecent Assault and Battery
- Assault with Intent to Commit a Felony
- Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon (the “weapon” does not need to be a gun or knife—virtually anything can be considered a dangerous weapon, including your shoes)
- Assault with Intent to Rob or Murder
- Sexual Assault
Domestic Assault and Battery
Domestic violence occurs where you commit an assault and/or battery on a family member, household member or on someone with whom you are in a substantive dating relationship.
Massachusetts has recently enacted assault and battery on a household member. Until recently, our state did not have a separate crime or definition for domestic assault and battery. It just fell within the normal assault and battery statute. Interestingly, it does not mean what you think. It does not mean you commit assault and battery on a family member, a roommate, or anyone like that.
This crime only applies to married couples or those involved in a substantive dating relationship. It is strictly limited to situations concerning spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends. This crime includes enhanced penalties, including a requirement that any person placed on any kind of probation for this crime must enter and complete a certified batterer’s intervention program.
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