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Assault and Battery Laws in Massachusetts

Contact Attorney Jason Chan

Attorney Jason Chan

267 North Beacon Street, Suite 3
Boston MA 01235

Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: 617-226-7986

Assault and battery may be some of the most confusing criminal terms in Massachusetts. You oftentimes hear someone refer to “assault” when they really mean “assault and battery” and sometimes you’ll hear “battery” when “assault” is more appropriate. However, there are profound differences between the two criminal charges.


Generally, assault in Massachusetts is defined as:

  1. Attempted Battery. This requires that the defendant intended to commit the battery on the victim, actually took some step in accomplishing the battery, and came reasonably close to accomplishing the battery. 
  2. Threatened Battery. This requires that the defendant intended to put the victim in fear of an imminent battery and took some conduct to make the victim feel threatened. So unlike the first form of assault, the victim must be aware of the threat of harm.

For example, a defendant may be convicted of assault if he throws a punch at someone, but fails to land the punch. There is no actual battery (the defendant missed), but there is an attempted battery (the throwing of the punch).

In addition, a defendant could even be convicted of assault if he merely makes threats of punching the victim and shows his fists without actually throwing a punch. This may be considered a threat of battery.

Neither form of assault requires an actual physical touching of the other person. And this is the primary difference between this crime and the crime of assault and battery explained below.

Intentional Assault and Battery

Assault and battery in Massachusetts is defined in the same section of the law as assault discussed above. (M.G.L. c. 265, § 13A). Generally, the crime consists of three elements:

  1. Touching of the Victim. Actual physical contact must be made.
  2. Intent To Touch. This requires that the defendant deliberately intended the act. In other words, the touching could not have been an accident or an act of negligence.
  3. Touch Was Likely To Cause Bodily Harm Or Was Done Without Consent. It does not need to be shown that the defendant intended to cause injury.

So if the defendant intentionally threw a punch at another person and actually landed the blow, the defendant could now face assault and battery charges.

Reckless Assault and Battery

The second form of assault and battery is reckless assault and battery. This crime involves reckless acts that result in bodily injury. This crime only involves two elements:

  1. Intentional Act That Caused Bodily Injury. While the defendant does not need intent to touch the victim, the defendant does need the intent to commit a reckless act that actually causes injury. Keep mind that injuries do not include any minor inconveniences to the victim. Instead, the injury must be serious enough to interfere with the victim’s health or comfort.
  2. The Act Was Reckless. Prosecutors must show that the defendant’s actions were  likely to cause harm to others.

For example, assume that the defendant does not throw a punch at another, but instead wildly swings his fists in a crowded bar. If the defendant comes into contact with another person and breaks that person’s nose, the defendant could be charged with reckless assault and battery.

Massachusetts Criminal Penalties

The penalties for “assault” and “assault and battery” are the same. (M.G.L. c. 265, § 13A). Generally, a defendant faces two-and-a-half years in prison. But with extenuating circumstances like an assault and battery that causes serious injury or an assault against a pregnant women, the defendant can face more serious penalties.

Contact a Lawyer

Massachusetts assault and battery are serious offenses. You should know that even if you don’t physically touch someone else, you could face jail time if you are convicted of assault. That is why if you are charged with one of these crimes, it is important to work with a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney.

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