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Assault and Battery
In Massachusetts, if you get involved in a physical altercation with another person, you may be charged with assault and battery. The law of assault and battery is established in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, Section 13A, and is prosecuted in Massachusetts district courts.
There are two different types of assault and battery: Intentional assault and battery, and reckless assault and battery. Each crime has different elements for the prosecution to prove in order to convict you. Like other crimes, you may also assert defenses to avoid conviction.Assault and Battery in Boston
To convict you of assault and battery, the district attorney must prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. That you committed a touching, no matter how slight.
2. That you committed the touching intentionally. This element can be inferred by your conduct.
3. That the touching was harmful or offensive. Massachusetts law states that a harmful touching is contact with an individual that is physically harmful or potentially physically harmful. An offensive touching is a touching that amounts to an affront of a person’s integrity.
4. That the touching was committed without justification or excuse. For instance, a justification is when a person engages in contact sports, or when someone submits to an examination by a doctor. An excuse is touching that occurs when you make contact with someone by accident; such as when you are riding in a subway car and you accidentally bump into them.
Defenses to intentional assault and battery
If you are charged with intentional assault and battery in Massachusetts, there are many defenses you can assert. These defenses include self-defense, necessity, consent, and accident.
For self-defense, if you reasonably believe you are about to be attacked, you have the right to defend yourself. However, you are required by law to take reasonable steps to avoid resorting to force. In addition, you are not allowed to use more force than is reasonably necessary to defend yourself. Critically, Massachusetts law requires that you must attempt to retreat, if such an avenue is available, before resorting to force. If you are in your home, you are not required to retreat, so long as you believe the intruder is about to inflict great bodily death or injury upon you, and you use reasonable means to defend yourself.
The defense of necessity or duress is available to a defendant when exceptional circumstances exist. To assert this defense, the defendant has to demonstrate that, based on the facts and circumstances, breaking the law caused significantly less harm than if the defendant had complied with the law. For instance, the defense of necessity exists when circumstances force you to perform a criminal act. The defense of duress exists when other persons coerce you into performing a criminal act.
If an individual consents to an offensive touching, the defense of consent may be available. As discussed above, consent to an offensive touching may occur when you agree to play contact sports. However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled in Comm. v. Carey that consent is not a defense to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, even in situations involving consensual sexual activity.
If the touching that occurred was accidental, you may be able to successfully assert the defense of accident. Since the law requires that the touching be intentional, if you can prove that the touching was accidental you cannot be found guilty of intentional assault and battery.Reckless Assault and Battery in Boston
Reckless assault and battery is the less common form of assault and battery. To convict you of reckless assault and battery, the prosecution must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. That you engaged in actions that caused physical harm or bodily injury to someone. To prove this element, the prosecution must show that the injury was sufficiently serious to interfere with someone’s health or comfort. The injury does not have to be permanent. An action that only causes momentary discomfort is not considered sufficient.
2. That your actions amounted to wanton and reckless conduct. To prove this element, the prosecutor must establish that your actions went beyond mere negligence, and amounted to recklessness. For your conduct to be considered reckless, you must have known or should have known that your conduct would likely have caused substantial harm to someone, but you proceeded with the conduct anyway.
For example, negligent conduct is merely acting in a way that a reasonable person would not. In contrast, your conduct is considered reckless conduct if a reasonable person, under the circumstances as they were known to the defendant, would have recognized that his actions were so dangerous that substantial injury would likely result.
As with intentional assault and battery, if you can demonstrate that your acts occurred by accident, you cannot be found guilty of reckless assault and battery.
Injured while escaping
In some cases, you may be convicted of assault and battery even if you do not physically touch the victim. If the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant caused an individual to fear an immediate attack from the defendant, and the individual tried to escape and injured himself in the process, the defendant may be convicted of assault and battery.
According to Massachusetts law, the maximum punishment for assault and battery is 2.5 years in the state prison or a fine of $1000.Aggressive Assault and Battery Defense
You should be aware that the crime of assault and battery carries possible time in the state house of corrections. The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has over 20 years experience in defending individuals against a vast array of criminal charges. If you are facing prosecution for assault and battery, your future could be jeopardized.
You need an excellent defense to provide you with the best chance of avoiding a conviction. Stephen Neyman P.C. Our skilled team of criminal law professionals will defend your case from the investigative stages to trial. Please call us today at 617-263-6800 or contact us online for a free consultation.