You probably are not a bad person, but if you are accused of assault or assault and battery in Massachusetts, you are in a bad situation. If you’re charged with assault, you will need to have a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney working on your behalf.

What constitutes assault in Massachusetts? What is the difference between “assault” and “assault and battery” in this state? What penalties may be imposed if a person is convicted for one of these crimes? What steps should you take if you are charged with assault – or with assault and battery – and what are your rights?

If you’ll keep reading, those questions will be answered in this brief discussion of assault crimes in Massachusetts, and you’ll also learn where to turn for the legal help you will need if you are prosecuted for one of these crimes.

What Constitutes Assault in Massachusetts?

Assault happens in Massachusetts when someone attempts to use physical force against another person or demonstrates an intent to use immediate physical force against another person. You do not have to injure or make physical contact with someone in order to commit assault in this state.

Throwing a punch at someone, even if you miss, constitutes assault. So does raising a fist in a threatening manner to put another person in fear of imminent bodily harm.

What Constitutes Assault and Battery?

If you actually strike another person physically – or hit someone with a dangerous object and with the intent to cause physical harm – you have committed assault and battery in Massachusetts.

Assault and battery is deliberately touching someone in a way that is likely to cause bodily harm or touching someone without that person’s consent. Actual physical contact is all that is required. It is not necessary to injure someone in order to commit assault and battery.

If You Are Suspected of an Assault Crime

Unless one of these crimes was witnessed by a police officer, or unless the charge against you is a felony charge or involves domestic violence, you are entitled to a clerk’s hearing (also called a “show cause” hearing) before a formal assault or assault and battery charge may be filed against you.

At a show cause hearing, a District Court clerk magistrate will determine if there is probable cause to believe you committed a crime. Your attorney may accompany you to this hearing. If the magistrate finds probable cause, you’ll be charged and given a date for your arraignment.

If an assault charge or an assault and battery charge is filed against you, you must be advised and represented by a Massachusetts assault attorney who will investigate what happened, examine the evidence, speak to the witnesses, and advocate aggressively and effectively on your behalf.

If you are questioned by the police about an alleged assault crime, exercise your rights. Politely say that you prefer not to answer any questions until your attorney is present. Do not make any statements, sign any documents, or attempt to act as your own attorney.

How Are Domestic Assault Crimes Different?

Domestic assault and assault and battery cases are charged under their own statute, and these cases can quickly become complicated. You may be charged with domestic assault or with domestic assault and battery if you and the purported victim are or were:

  1. related by marriage or blood
  2. residing together in a cohabitation arrangement
  3. dating
  4. parents of the same child

Prosecutors in Massachusetts will not drop domestic assault or domestic assault and battery charges at the alleged victim’s request. Additionally, you will not be entitled to a clerks’ hearing. Instead, the police in Massachusetts may arrest you on the spot for a crime of domestic violence.

Are There Other Assault and Battery Charges?

The following assault and battery charges may be prosecuted as felonies or as misdemeanors in Massachusetts, depending on the details of the particular case:

  1.  assault with intent to murder, maim, or disfigure
  2.  assault with intent to commit a felony
  3.  assault by force or violence with intent to commit robbery
  4.  assault and battery to collect a loan
  5.  assault and battery on a pregnant person if a defendant knows or should know of the pregnancy
  6.  assault and battery against a public employee, EMT, ambulance attendant, or healthcare provider
  7.  assault and battery against a disabled person or an elderly person over age 60

The details of an assault charge or an assault and battery charge will determine whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony and will also determine the penalties for a conviction.

Assault with intent to murder, maim, disfigure, or commit a felony, and battery on an elderly or disabled person may be penalized upon conviction by up to ten years in prison.

A ten-year sentence may also be imposed if the victim is a firefighter acting in the performance of his or her duties or if the offender attempted to disarm a police officer during the assault.

What Are the Other Consequences of an Assault Conviction?

If you are charged with assault, assault and battery, or with any other crime in Massachusetts, you must obtain the advice and services of a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.

A conviction for any assault or assault and battery charge can have serious consequences. The penalties for a conviction – even for a misdemeanor charge – may include time behind bars, a fine, probation, and court-ordered counseling. A conviction also creates a criminal record.

Apart from the legal penalties for an assault conviction, there will be extra-legal ramifications. If you hold a professional license, you can expect disciplinary action from your professional licensing board. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, an assault conviction could lead to your deportation.

How Will Your Defense Attorney Handle Your Case?

If you’re being charged for assault or assault and battery, don’t wait to get the legal assistance you need. By assessing the facts and telling your side of the story, the right Massachusetts criminal defense attorney may even be able to stop a formal criminal charge from being filed.

If your attorney cannot stop the charge from being filed, he or she will probably try to have the charge dropped or dismissed. If that’s not possible, your attorney can take the case to trial, tell a jury what happened, and ask the jurors to find you not guilty.

However, if the evidence against you is overwhelming and a conviction is certain, in many cases, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain. You would be convicted of a lesser charge and serve a lesser sentence if you are offered and accept a plea bargain agreement.

But whether the case against you is strong or weak, if you are charged with assault or with assault and battery, your criminal defense lawyer will bring the case to its best possible conclusion, so contact that attorney as early as possible.