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The Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor Charges for Domestic Assault and Battery

If you’ve been arrested on a domestic violence charge, assault, disorderly conduct, or drug possession, you should speak to an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You can contact us online or call our office directly at 781-740-0800 to schedule your free consultation with one of our top-notch defense lawyers at Nate Amendola Defense. We have been proudly servicing clients throughout Norwell, Massachusetts, and surrounding areas such as Plymouth, Barnstable, Nantucket, and more.

Charges of assault and battery on a family member are distinct from other charges of assault and battery under Massachusetts law. Domestic violence can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, but in many cases, these offenses have greater penalties than assault and battery on someone other than a relative.

Misdemeanor Charges for Domestic Assault

Even if the charge is “only” a misdemeanor, it can still significantly impact your freedom and your future. In Massachusetts, suspected offenders must be held for at least six hours if arrested for domestic violence. If a judge decides that letting you out on bail would threaten the alleged victim’s safety or the public, you could be held without bail for up to 120 days or until trial.

State law also imposes specific provisions for domestic assault offenders, including:

  • Mandatory enrollment in a batterer’s intervention program
  • Subsequent domestic violence offenses will be charged as a felony
  • Loss of firearm privileges upon conviction

Felony Charges for Domestic Assault and Battery

Some first offenses of domestic violence can be charged as felonies depending on the circumstances of the crime. If convicted of felony domestic violence, you could face up to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

A misdemeanor offense may be upgraded to a felony if it involved:

  • Use of a dangerous weapon. Assault and battery involving a weapon is considered a felony offense, but the definition of a “dangerous weapon” can vary widely. It includes guns, knives, and blunt objects but could also apply to everyday household objects or even an offender’s foot.
  • Other felony offenses. Misdemeanor domestic assault might be charged as a felony if it was committed alongside another felony offense, such as rape, robbery, or assault and battery of an elderly or disabled person.
  • Strangulation. The law recognizes any attempt to obstruct a victim’s windpipe as a felony offense. If the prosecutor can show evidence of strangulation (such as marks on the alleged victim’s neck), the offender can face a felony charge of strangulation or even attempted murder.
  • Serious bodily harm. Any act of assault and battery that causes serious physical injury or harms a pregnant victim at the time of the attack may be charged as a felony.
  • False imprisonment. If an offender physically prevents an alleged victim from leaving the premises, makes threats if the victim attempts to go, or otherwise holds a victim captive, a misdemeanor may be upgraded to a felony.
  • Violation of a protection order. Suppose the alleged victim of an assault and battery had previously taken out a restraining order against the offender, and the protection order was in place during the commission of the domestic assault. In that case, the offender may be charged with a felony.

Prosecutors May “Overcharge” Domestic Offenders

Unfortunately, a misunderstanding of the circumstances of a domestic dispute can significantly affect the potential jail time and the consequences of a conviction. For example, let’s say you were staying at a friend’s house after your partner took out a restraining order against you, but you ran out of clean clothes and money for groceries.

You returned home to pick up some laundry and cash, but your partner unexpectedly came home and called the police—and you accidentally struck your partner with the door while trying to leave. Suddenly, you’re arrested for felony assault—as well as theft and violation of a protection order.

Stories like these are all too common. Prosecutors may attempt to tack on any additional offenses that may “stick” to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge, overcharging defendants to elevate their case to a felony. It will take the aid of an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney to reduce the charges against you and get the best possible resolution to your case.

At Nate Amendola Defense, we fight aggressively in court to avoid conviction and the lifelong consequences it can have on your life. Contact us today to set up your free case review and see how we can help you.