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Massachusetts G.L. c. 265, § 13M: Assault or Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member; Second or Subsequent Offense; Penalty

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, section 13M, makes it a crime to commit an assault, or an assault and battery, on a member of a person’s own family or household. To convict a defendant of this offense, the Commonwealth must prove the following four elements, beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. At the time of the alleged act, the victim and the defendant were “family or household members”;
  2. Without legal justification or excuse, the defendant touched the body of the alleged victim;
  3. The defendant intended to touch the body of the victim; and
  4. The defendant’s touching of the victim was either likely to cause bodily harm to the victim, or was done without the victim’s consent.

Under the statute, a “family or household member” refers to two people who (i) are (or were) married to each other; (ii) have a child in common, even if they are not married or do not live together; and/or (iii) are in (or have been in) a substantive dating or engagement relationship. However, determining whether such a relationship is “substantive” depends upon a number of factors, including the length of time and the type of the relationship, the frequency of interaction between the two persons, whether the relationship had been terminated, and the length of time between the termination of the relationship and the alleged act.

Related Offenses
  • G.L. c. 265, § 13A (assault or assault and battery, generally)
  • G.L. c. 265, § 13J (assault and battery on a child under age 14 which caused bodily injury, or which causes substantial bodily injury)
  • G.L. c. 265, §13K (assault and battery upon an elderly or disabled person)
  • G.L. c. 265, §13N (transmission of conviction information for misdemeanor offense to department of criminal justice information services, where the offense includes as an element the use or attempted use of physical force or the threatened use of deadly weapon where victim or intended victim was family or household member)
Defenses to Assault or Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member

As the language of the statute implies, it will be a defense to a charge under G.L. c. 265, § 13M if the alleged victim consented to the defendant’s touching. Likewise, if the defendant had a legal justification or excuse for touching the victim – for example, pushing the victim out of the street to prevent the victim from being hit by a car – this would be a valid defense to the crime. It would also be a defense that the defendant’s touching occurred accidentally, rather than intentionally. A touching is intentional only if the Commonwealth proves that the defendant consciously and deliberately intended to touch the victim. However, the Commonwealth must only prove that the touching was intentional; it does not matter whether or not the defendant actually intended to cause injury to the alleged victim.


A defendant convicted of assault or assault and battery on a family or household member will face either (1) up to two and one-half years in the house of corrections, (2) a fine of up to $5,000, or (3) both imprisonment and a fine. Conviction may also require the defendant to complete a certified batterer’s intervention program.

Assault or Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member Defense Lawyer

A defendant charged under G.L. c. 265, § 13M – often known as the domestic abuse statute – may face a significant sentence if convicted, depending on the specific facts of his or her case. Domestic abuse crimes can be prosecuted even if the victim decides not to press charges or recants his or her accusations. If you face these charges, please contact Attorney Stephen Neyman to assess the facts of your case and skillfully prepare an aggressive defense to the charges. Call our office today at 617-263-6800 for a free consultation.

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