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Understanding the Differences Between Assault and Battery Charges

People often use the terms “assault” and “battery” interchangeably, but there’s a big difference between the two offenses under Massachusetts law. If you’ve been charged with assault or assault and battery, here’s what our Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer says you need to know.

What is Assault?

Assault is an attempt to use force against another person, or demonstrating an intention to use force to cause injury. Contrary to what most people think of as “assault,” the legal definition of assault doesn’t involve injury or even physical contact with another person. Assault is merely the threat of physical harm. As a result, you could be charged with assault despite never touching the alleged victim.

What is Battery?

person covering their face after assault in massachusetts

Battery is making actual physical contact without another person without their consent. In Massachusetts, battery isn’t charged alone, but as the collective charge “assault and battery.

It’s worth noting that battery doesn’t have to cause physical harm to the victim. Any physical action, such as pushing someone or throwing something at them can result in a charge of battery.

What Are the Penalties for Assault or Battery?

Assault and battery offenses can carry a range of different penalties depending on the nature and severity of the crime. If the victim suffered minor or no injuries, a defendant will likely face a misdemeanor charge and jail sentence if convicted. However, serious injuries to a victim or aggravating circumstances can result in felony assault and battery charges, which can lead to incarceration in a state prison. The environment in county jail is vastly different from that in state prison, and it will take the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to minimize the time spent in a house of correction.

The Consequences for Assault and Battery Can Vary With the Offense, Such As:

  • Simple assault. Misdemeanor convictions for assault or battery are punishable by up to 2.5 years imprisonment and fines up to $1,000.
  • Serious bodily injury. If an act of assault and battery causes serious physical harm or the victim is pregnant at the time of the incident, conviction may result in incarceration in the state prison for up to 5 years and fines up to $5,000.
  • Restraining order violations. If assault and battery involved a victim who had previously taken out a restraining order against the offender, conviction may result in incarceration in the state prison for up to 5 years and fines up to $5,000. Use of a deadly weapon.
  • The use of a weapon make a big difference in the consequences for an assault and battery case. A “deadly” weapon could be a knife or gun, but could also be a rock, a stick, or even a shod foot. In cases of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, offenders may face a state prison sentence of up to 15 years and fines up to $10,000. Assault with intent to rob.
  • Assaulting someone with force or violence with the intent to rob or steal property carries potential imprisonment of up to 10 years in state prison.
  • Using force to collect a loan. Anyone who commits assault and battery in an attempt to collect a loan faces between 2.5 to 5 years in a house of correction for a first offense, and 5 to 10 years in state prison for subsequent offenses.

There Are Defenses Available for Assault and Battery Charges

In order for you to be convicted of an assault and battery charge in Massachusetts, the prosecution must prove that you touched the victim without permission, you intended to touch the victim, and your contact was offensive or intended to cause bodily harm. If any one of these can be disproved—such as you touched the victim accidentally or had no intent to cause harm—you may avoid conviction. As with any defense, the best way to approach your case is to examine the specific factors involved. At Nate Amendola Defense, we fight aggressively in court to avoid conviction and minimize the effects of criminal charges on your life. Contact us today to set up your free case review.