Under Massachusetts’ laws, assaults (attempted uses of physical force or demonstrations of an intent to use physical force) and assault and batteries (physical contact that is unwanted or likely to cause harm) can be punished as felonies if the defendant inflicts serious injury, or if the assault is committed against a particular victim or with a particular intent.
In many cases, assault or assault and battery can be a felony or a misdemeanor.
For more information on misdemeanor assault, see Massachusetts Assault and Battery Laws.
For more information on assaults and batteries committed with a weapon, see Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Massachusetts.
Serious Bodily Injury, Substantial Bodily Injury, and Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury. Anytime an assault or assault and battery causes serious bodily injury, the defendant can be charged with a felony. Serious bodily injury creates a substantial risk of death or causes permanent disfigurement, loss, or impairment of any part of the body.
For example, kicking someone in the head and inflicting permanent injury would be considered inflicting serious bodily injury.
Substantial bodily injury. Some assaults that cause substantial bodily injury can also be punished as felonies. Substantial bodily injury creates a substantial risk of death or causes permanent disfigurement or lasting loss or impairment of any part of the body.
For example, beating someone so badly that the victim had to use a cane until fully recovering would probably be considered causing substantial bodily injury.
Bodily injury. Even some assaults that merely cause bodily injury can be felonies. Bodily injury is any burn, fracture, bruise, internal injury, any injury that results from repeated harm to the victim, or any physical condition that endangers a victim’s health or welfare.
(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, §§ 13A, 13J.)
Assault on a Child
Any assault and battery on a child under the age of 14 that causes bodily injury or substantial bodily injury can be punished as a felony.
Wanton or reckless behavior
A person who has care and custody of a child (parent, guardian, or employee of the child’s home or institution) and wantonly or recklessly causes substantial bodily injury or permits another to cause substantial bodily injury against the child can be guilty of a felony.
People act recklessly or wantonly when they are aware of (or should be aware of) and disregard the risk of harm that their behavior (or inaction) poses to the victim. Reckless and wanton behavior is always a gross departure from how a reasonable person would act.
(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, § 13J; Mass. Crim. Model Jury Instructions, No. 6.250.)
For example, allowing someone else to hit or burn a child could be considered wanton or reckless.
Assault and Assault and Battery Against Certain Victims or for Certain Purposes
The following crimes can be punished as felonies:
- assault with intent to murder, maim, or disfigure
- assault with intent to commit a felony
- assault by force or violence with intent to steal (robbery)
- assault and battery committed in order to collect a loan
- assault or assault and battery if the victim is pregnant and the defendant knows or has reason to know of the pregnancy
- assault and battery against a public (government) employee, emergency medical technician, ambulance operator or attendant, or a health care provider
- assault and battery against an elderly person (over the age of 60), or
- assault and battery against people with disabilities (physical or mental impairments that prevent people from being able to care for or protect themselves).
People who wantonly or recklessly cause (or allow another to cause injury) to an elderly person or disabled adult in their care can also be convicted of a felony.
(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, §§ 13A, 13C, 13D, 13I, 13K, 15, 20.)
Domestic Violence or Assaults by a Person Under a Restraining Order
Second and subsequent assaults and batteries against family or household members can be punished as a felony. Family and household members include people who are or were married, people who live together or lived together, people related by blood, people who have children together, and people who are dating or have dated. The relevant period of time to consider is the past five years.
Any assault or assault and battery committed by a defendant who knows that he or she is under a protective order can be punished as a felony.
(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, §§ 13A, 13M.)
For more information, see Massachusetts Domestic Violence Laws.
Causing bodily injury to a child is punishable by up to two and a half years in jail or up to five years in prison. Causing substantial bodily injury to a child is punishable by up to two and a half years in jail or up to fifteen years in prison. Recklessly or wantonly causing substantial bodily injury to a child is punishable by up to two and half years in jail or up to five years in prison.
Assault that causes serious bodily injury, assault against a pregnant woman, or assault and battery by a defendant under a restraining order is punishable by up to two and a half years in jail, or up to five years’ imprisonment, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Second and subsequent assault or battery on a family or household member is punishable by up to two and a half years in jail, or up to five years’ imprisonment.
Assault and battery to collect a loan is punishable by up to two and a half years in jail, or three to five years’ imprisonment. Second (and subsequent) convictions are punishable by five to ten years’ imprisonment; the defendant must serve a minimum of five years before granted parole or probation.
Assault with intent to murder, maim, or disfigure, or commit a felony is punishable by up to two-and-a-half years in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 or up to ten years’ imprisonment. Assault by force or violence with intent to steal is punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment.
Battery on an elderly or disabled person is punishable by anywhere from two-and-a-half years in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, depending on the degree of injury sustained by the victim and the relationship (if any) between the victim and the defendant.
(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, §§ 13A, 13C, 13J, 13K, 15, 20, 29.)
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
Being convicted of aggravated assault can result in time in prison, as well as a fine and a criminal record. If you are charged with aggravated assault, you should contact a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney. Hopefully, with an attorney’s help, you can get the charges dismissed or reduced, or obtain an acquittal or a shorter sentence than the maximum allowed by law. An attorney can make the strongest arguments on your behalf and help you achieve the best outcome.