In Massachusetts just as in other states, assault is a crime of violence. The main divisions in assault charges are:
- Assault as an attempt to physically touch someone - Assault doesn't necessarily have to involve physical contact to lead to a successful charge. Instead, it is defined as an attempt to commit a physical attack, or as a threatening action that would otherwise cause a person to feel fear of impending violence. When the attempt at assault succeeds, the crime is charged as battery. This means that there is no such crime as attempted assault.
- Assault as a physical connection - Assault may be defined as intentionally using violence or force against another person. This violence may include striking the victim with an object, or punching or hitting the other person. Under this approach, an attempted assault can apply when someone intends to physically injure the victim but fails.
- Aggravated assault occurs when the level of assault in question is particularly high and serious. For instance, aggravated assault may occur when there is evidence that the assault would have led to an additional crime, or if the assault was conducted with a significant weapon. This particular type of offense is considered to be a felony in Massachusetts. Serious bodily injury resulting from assault is covered by Section 13A of Chapter 265of the Massachusetts General Laws.
Aggravated Assault Examples
Examples of aggravated assault might include something like:
- Threatening or physically striking a person with a dangerous weapon or object
- Shooting someone with a gun, or threatening to murder someone while pointing a gun at that person.
- Committing assault with the intention to conduct another felony crime such as rape or robbery
- Conducting an assault that results in serious physical injury
- Conducting an assault against a member of a protected class, such as the elderly, disabled, or a child.
Aggravated Assault Punishment
Aggravated assault is a felony level crime that can be punished by somewhere in the region of one to twenty years in prison depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident.
Normally, the judge in question in an aggravated assault case will have some discretion about the length of the sentence and whether it is a good idea to allow the defendant to serve some portion of his or her sentence during probation rather than in prison. In determining which sentence to give, judges will typically consider a number of factors, including the defenses that are presented at trial, whether the defendant takes responsibility for the crime, and whether they have any criminal history related to the crime in question. The judge may also consider the circumstances surrounding the crime, and the extent of any injuries that occurred, as well as the type of weapon used, and the accused's background.
As with many crimes, there are circumstances wherein the charges against an individual in an aggravated assault case can be heightened. For instance, in Massachusetts, assault against a special protected victim such as an elderly person or a police officer might lead to more severe penalties, or be subject to additional sentence enhancement, which permits the court to add extra time to the sentence for the crime underlying. In Massachusetts, there may also be a potential for severe penalties or provision enhancements if the deadly weapon that was used in the assault was a firearm.
In Massachusetts, the punishment for aggravated assault are as follows:
- Assault against a child
◦ If resulting in bodily injury - up to five years in state prison or up to 2.5 years in jail
◦ If resulting in substantial bodily injury - up to 15 years in state prison or up to 2.5 years in jail
- Assaut resulting in serious bodily injury, assault and battery by someone under restraining order, or assault against a pregnant woman - up to five years in state prison, or 2.5 years in jail, and a fine of up to $5000
- Assault with intent disfigure, maim or murder - up to 2.5 years in jail, or up to 10 years in state prison, and a fine of up to $1000
- Assault with violence or force for the purpose of stealing - up to 10 years in state prison
- Battery on a disabled or elderly person - up to 10 years in state prison or up to 2.5 years in jail and fine of up to $1000
- Assault and battery against public employee - 90 days to 2.5 years in jail, or fine of $500 to $5000
Aggravated Assault Defenses
- Defendants in a case that are charged with aggravated assault will be able to use the usual defenses that are typically available to all alleged criminals, starting with the concept of mistaken identity. In mistaken identity defenses, the defendant argues that the court got the wrong person - and that they were never actually involved in the crime.
- Defendants might also claim self-defense, or that they were acting in an attempt to defend others. In this particular case, the defense might actually take the form of showing that the weapon was in the victim's possession at first, or that the victim made the first threat.
- It is also possible to argue that the actions conducted by the defendant were entirely accidental and had no criminal intent, or suggest an insanity defense, in which the defense argues that the accused did not have the mental capacity to control his or her behavior, or fully understand what he or she was doing.
What to Do If You've Been Charged
It's vital to look for professional legal help as soon as possible, so that you can start to build a defense against the charges that have been made against you.