Assault and Battery Explained

Assault and Battery are common crimes in Massachusetts, whether together or as stand-alone offenses. But most people don’t really understand the conduct behind each of these crimes. It is common for someone to refer to a certain act as an assault, when they really mean battery, and vice versa.

Assault and Battery Distinguished

Assault is an act that creates a fear of imminent, harmful, or offensive conduct. Battery is the crime that occurs when the harmful or offensive conduct is carried out. The key distinction between the two crimes is that for battery, there has to be a touching. If there is no touching, but the victim is in fear of a touching, that crime is an assault. For example, if a person attempts to punch another person, but misses, he/she may be charged with assault. If there is a touching (the punch lands), the charge will likely be battery.

Further, you may be charged with battery even if you don’t actually hurt the person. In other words, if the punch lands, but does not injure the person you punched, you can still get charged with this crime. Even spitting on someone can constitute battery. In Massachusetts, if there’s an actual touching, the crime is referred to as Assault and Battery. Our Boston defense lawyers can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

Proving Assault and Battery

Proving Assault and Battery requires proof that the threat of contact, or the contact itself, was intentional. Thus, an accidental touching, even if it causes injury, will not usually be sufficient to prove the crime.

Defending yourself from Charges of Assault and Battery

There are two frequent defenses to charges of Assault and Battery. The first is consent. A person who implicitly consents to a harmful touching is not a victim of Assault and Battery. For example, if you decide to wrestle with a friend, and that person injures you, you have consented to that conduct. Self defense is another common defense. A person may use bodily force to protect him or herself from harm. If you harm someone by a touch, but did so to protect yourself, you may have a defense to Assault and Battery. A MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with assault and battery or are being investigated by the police for A and B in Massachusetts.

Punishments for Assault and Battery

In addition to any civil damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering) that a victim may claim, there may be criminal penalties for Assault and Battery. Section 13A of the Massachusetts General Laws provides that the crime is a misdemeanor, and punished by no more than two-and-a-half years in jail and a $1000 fine. The punishment may be more severe (including many years in state prison) if the perpetrator commits the crime against a pregnant woman, a child, a government employee, or someone who has a restraining order against the perpetrator. The punishment may also be more severe if the Assault and Battery causes serious bodily injury, which is defined as bodily injury that results in a permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a bodily function, limb or organ, or a substantial risk of death.

Further, Assault and Battery is punished by section 20 of the Massachusetts General Laws if the perpetrator does so with the intent to rob or steal. For example, if a person tells you they have a gun in their pocket and orders you to hand over your wallet, he/she may be charged with Assault (in addition to robbery) even if they didn’t actually have a gun. Such a crime is punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.

Altman & Altman, LLP—Top Criminal Defense Law Firm in MA

If you have been charged with Assault and Battery, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. Our experienced lawyers will ensure that you fully understand your rights and options, and we’ll be with you every step of the way. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.


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