Massachusetts Aggravated Assault

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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

The level of injury can determine whether the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

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 results in a permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a bodily function, limb or organ, or a substantial risk of death.

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. Like the definition of serious bodily injury, substantial bodily injury creates a permanent disfigurement, protracted loss or impairment of a function of a body member, limb or organ, or substantial risk of death.

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 substantial impairment of the physical condition including any burn, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, injury to any internal organ, any injury that occurs as the result of repeated harm to any bodily function or organ including human skin or any physical condition that substantially imperils a child's health or welfare.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. 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.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 265, § 13J.)

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 Ann. 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, firefighter, 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 Ann. ch. 265, §§ 15, 29, 20, 13A, 13C, 13D, 13D 1/2, 13I, 13K.)

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.

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 Ann. ch. 265, §§ 13A, 13M.)

For more information, see Massachusetts Domestic Violence Laws.

Punishment

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 permitting bodily injury to a child is punishable by up to two and half years in jail. Recklessly or wantonly permitting substantial bodily injury to a child is punishable by up to two and half years in jail or up to five years in prison.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 265, § 13J.)

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 in prison, and a fine of up to $5,000.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 265, § 13A.)

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 in prison.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 265, § 13M.)

Assault and battery to collect a loan is punishable by up to two-and-a-half years in jail or three to five years in prison. Second (and subsequent) convictions are punishable by five to ten years in prison, and the defendant must serve a minimum of five years before granted parole or probation.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 265, § 13C.)

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 in prison. Assault by force or violence with intent to steal is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 265, §§ 15, 29, 20.)

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 Ann. ch. 265, § 13K.)

Assault and battery against a public (government) employee, emergency medical technician, ambulance operator or attendant, or a health care provider engaged in the performance of his duties is punishable 90 days to two-and-a-half years in jail or a fine between $500 and $5,000. If the victim is a firefighter acting in the performance of his duties or if the offender attempted to disarm a police officer during the assault, penalties include up to ten years in prison or up two-and-a-half years in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

(Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 265, §§ 13D, 13D 1/2, 13I.)

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.

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