Assault Crimes

Assault, assault and battery and aggravated assault are related crimes that involve intentional harm that is inflicted on a person by another person. Any crime featuring a physical attack, or a mere threat of an attack, is usually classified under state law as an assault, battery or both. Depending on how serious the attack is, or the lethality of the weapon used, these acts can be defined as aggravated assault.

Also, not just a one-sided attack can be called assault under state law. Fighting between two people can lead to assault charges, even when both have agreed to fight.

Each state has different definitions and punishments for various types of assault. Specifics about Massachusetts state laws in these areas are highlighted below.

Assault Definition

Assault is often defined as any intentional act that causes one person to fear that he is about to suffer some type of physical harm. This definition of assault determines that putting another person in fear of bodily harm is an act that should be punished. This is the case even if the victim of the assault was not actually hurt. This definition of assault also allows law enforcement to get involved and put a person under arrest without waiting for the perpetrator to actually hurt the victim.

Assault and Battery Definition

In the past, battery and assault were thought of as separate crimes in most states; battery required the attacker to strike or actually touch the victim. In this manner, battery was a form of completed assault. Many modern state statutes do not actually distinguish between these two crimes. You can see this by the fact that the term ‘assault and battery’ has become so commonplace. Typically, state statutes refer to crimes of violence as assaults.

Simple vs. Aggravated Assault

The laws of many states classify assaults as simple or aggravated crimes. This is based upon the level of harm that happens, or is most likely to happen if the perpetrator follows through and hits the victim. Aggravated assault is a felony and can involve assault done with a weapon, or with the idea to commit a serious crime, such as rape. An assault also can be deemed to be aggravated if it happens during a relationship that the court system says is worth a special form of protection. But if these factors are absent, the crime will often be called simple assault, which is usually a misdemeanor.

Another alternative to classifying assault is by calling them simple or aggravated. Some states also recognize different degrees of harm that can lead them to be classified as first, second or third degree assault.

Assault Crimes and Laws in Massachusetts

It is important to know in Massachusetts that state laws distinguish between assault and assault and battery. The laws in this area are covered in Massachusetts General Laws, Part IV, Title 1, Chapter 265: Section 13A and Section 20. ( According to the Massachusetts Criminal Model Jury Instruction 6, these terms are defined as such:

  • Assault: The attempt to use physical force against a person, OR showing an intention to use a form of immediate force against another person.
  • Assault and battery: Deliberately making physical contact with a person without their consent, or in a way that is likely to lead to physical harm.

Punishments for Assault Crimes in Massachusetts

According to section 13A of the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, an assault or assault and battery that is not addressed by another statute can be punished by a fine of up to $1000, or being put in prison for up to 2.5 years in a house of correction. Or, the punishment can become as high as five years in state prison, and up to 2.5 years in a house of correction, and a fine of up to $5000, IF any of the following are applicable:

  • The assault and battery leads to serious bodily injury
  • The victim is pregnant and the offender knew or had reason to know this fact
  • The victim has a restraining order in place against the aggressor

Also, section 20 states that assaulting someone with force and violence, and with the idea to rob or steal can be punished by up to 10 years in state prison.

Understanding Bodily Injury, Substantial Bodily Injury and Bodily Injury

In Massachusetts and many states, assaults and batteries that cause injury usually are punished more severely. Below are definitions that come into play in Massachusetts assault cases as well as in most states:

  • Serious bodily injury: Creates a major risk of death, or could cause permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a body part. For instance, you hit someone so hard that they have a permanent scar.
  • Substantial bodily injury: Creates a serious risk of death or causes disfigurement that is permanent, or a long term loss or impairment of any body part. For example, breaking the leg of a person would probably be thought of as causing substantial bodily injury.
  • Bodily injury: Refers to any fracture, bruise, burn, internal injury or any other injury that is the result of repeated harm to the victim, or a physical condition that places the victim’s health or welfare in danger.

Also, a person in Massachusetts and most states who has custody and care of a child and wantonly and recklessly causes injury or allows another person to cause injury is guilty of a crime that would be punishable as a form of assault.

What To Do Next

Anyone who is facing an assault charge in Massachusetts or another state should seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney Nathan will be the criminal defense attorney you need to obtain the best result in your assault or assault and battery charge case.

For a criminal defense legal consultation, please text Boston Criminal Lawyer Geoffrey Nathan at 1-617-905-1433.


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For a Federal or Criminal Consultation, text me today at 1-617-905-1433 or use the form below for your consultation. I will offer you expert help and answer any specific questions you have about your case. I handle criminal defense cases throughout all areas of Massachusetts including Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Springfield, Quincy, Lowell, Worcester, Fall River and national for Federal matters.

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