Massachusetts Assault Defense

Criminal Defense Law Office of John L. Calcagni, III

Schedule a Consultation

There are two crimes in Massachusetts, assault and assault and battery. The difference between the two crimes is whether or not the defendant inflicts any harm to the victim. Massachusetts assault charges and penalties are tough. Obviously, the penalties vary depending on the severity of the charges. Therefore, you are going to want to hire a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney with experience.

John L. Calcagni has years of experience defending people from criminal charges. If receive any of the following charges, call (508) 213-9113 the Massachusetts Assault Lawyers of the Law Offices of John L. Calcagni today for a consultation and learn the best way to proceed with your case.

Types of Assault Offenses We Defend

Two Ways Assault May Be Committed

In Massachusetts, there are two ways that a person can commit an Assault. An Assault can be committed by either:

  1. an attempted battery
  2. a threatened battery

A battery is a harmful or an unpermitted touching of another person. Neither type of assault requires the actual ability to carry out the assault, only the apparent ability to do so. 

If the person conducting the assault makes physical contact with the other person(s), the crime merges into a battery.  

In summary, the assault is conduct short of the battery, which causes the other to fear harmful or unwanted physical contact.  Once actual contact occurs, the crime is a battery. 

Legal Elements of Assault by Attempted Battery

The first way to commit an assault is by an offer or attempt to commit a battery. In order to be found guilty of this type of Assault under Massachusetts criminal law, there must be strong evidence of the following legal elements:

  1. the defendant must have intended to commit a battery, that is a harmful or unpermitted touching
  2. the defendant must have also taken an overt step toward accomplishing that intent and came reasonably close to doing so

It is not necessary that the complainant was actually in fear or even aware of the attempted battery.

Legal Elements of Assault by Threatened Battery

The second way an assault occurs is when the defendant engaged in conduct that a reasonable person would recognize to be threatening and the defendant intended to place the complainant in fear of an imminent battery.

In order to be found guilty of this type of Assault under Massachusetts criminal law, there must be strong evidence of the following legal elements:

  1. the defendant intended to put the complainant in fear of an imminent battery
  2. the defendant engaged in some conduct toward the complainant which he or she reasonably perceived as imminently threatening a battery

The potential consequences for Assault, if convicted, in the Commonwealth may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 265, Section 13A(a). A defendant convicted of Assault may be sentenced to a term of not more than 2 ½ years in the house of corrections. This same penalty applies to both forms or theories of assault under Massachusetts law.

Massachusetts Assault Charges and Penalties

Simple Assault and Battery

Under Massachusetts law, assault is attempting to use force or demonstrating intent to use immediate force against another. Physical contact isn’t even necessary for you to receive assault charges. For example, throwing a punch and missing is assault in Massachusetts. Causing someone to fear for their wellbeing is enough to receive Massachusetts assault charges.

Assault and battery is any unwanted touching of another individual. Touching someone in a way that is likely to commit bodily harm is also assault and battery. For example, punching, kicking, shoving, or spitting on someone is assault and battery in Massachusetts. However, there does not need to be any injury to the victim.

The penalty for these crimes includes up to two and a half years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Domestic Assault and Battery

Domestic assault is the same as simple assault. Threats of physical violence or attempting to assault someone will result in assault charges. The only difference between domestic assault and simple assault is the relation between the victim and the defendant. Domestic assault occurs when the victim is part of the defendant’s household.

Domestic assault and battery is also identical to simple assault and battery. The only difference again is the relation of the two parties. Unwanted physical contact with a member of your household, even if there is no injury, is considered domestic assault and battery.

The punishment for these crimes includes up to two and a half years in prison and a $1,000 fine. The defendant may also have to participate in anger management classes or the Certified Batter’s Program. These programs can cost up to $3,500. Also, in most cases, the court issues a no contact order to the defendant.

There are also felony charges in certain cases. These charges occur when there is a serious injury to the victim. Felony domestic assault and battery convictions result in a prison sentence up to 15 years and much larger fines.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault which is also known as felony assault is the result of serious bodily injury to the victim. Obviously, the more serious the assault, the more serious the penalties. Aggravated assault occurs when the victim sustains a permanent disfiguration, a substantial risk of death, or impairment of any body part.

Examples of injuries that lead to felony assault charges include broken bones, scarring, bruising, an internal injury, or any injury that endangers a victim’s health or welfare.

The penalties for felony assault convictions include a minimum of a two and a half year prison sentence. The maximum prison term is up to five years. Also, there is a fine up to $5,000.

Assault With a Dangerous or Deadly Weapon

The term “dangerous weapon” is very broad. The obvious dangerous weapons are knives, guns, bats, and vehicles. However, because of how vague the law is almost any “weapon” that is used while committing assault and battery can be considered dangerous. There are provisions to this law for elderly people, children, and pregnant women. One of three things must occur to the victim; permanent disfigurement, loss of function of a body part, or substantial risk of death.

The penalties for AWDW range from five years to fifteen years in prison depending on the circumstances of the event. There is also the possibility of up to a $10,000 fine.

Defending an Assault Charge

The law recognizes several legal and affirmative defenses to an assault charge.   For example, a person is entitled to use reasonable force against another person that is necessary to defend oneself, others or even property against an attacker.  If a defendant raises one of these recognized legal defenses at trial, the prosecution must disprove the existence or applicability of the defense.  

If the prosecution is unsuccessful at doing so, a defendant who raises the defense should be found not guilty of the crime.  The defendant may raise the defense by cross-examining prosecution witnesses, through other prosecution evidence or by presenting evidence on his or her own behalf, to include calling defense witnesses or even testifying in one’s own defense.  If you have charged with any of the enumerated assault offenses listed above, consult with your lawyer to determine if you are eligible to raise an affirmative legal defense.  

Self Defense

Self-defense is a legal defense that authorizes a person to use physical force

necessary to protect against the reasonably feared or anticipated force from an attacker.  The law of self-defense makes a distinction between the use of non-deadly force and deadly force in one’s defense. 

Regarding non-deadly force, for a defendant to act in self-defense, he or she must reasonably believe he or she was being attacked or immediately about to be attacked, and that his or her safety was in immediate danger.  A defendant also may not use more force than reasonably necessary in the circumstances to defend himself or herself.  For example, if the defendant comes under physical attack, he generally cannot defend himself with a knife or a gun.   This would be a disproportionate response using more force than necessary to repel a physical attack. 

Regarding deadly force, there are only certain circumstances where it can lawfully be used in self-defense.  Deadly force is force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm, or use of a dangerous weapon in a manner intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm.  For a defendant to lawfully use deadly force in self-defense, her or she must have actually believed that he or she was in immediate danger of great bodily harm or death.  The defendant must also do everything reasonable under the circumstances to escape the situation before resorting to deadly force.

Defense of Others

In addition to self-defense, a person may use reasonable force when that is necessary to help another person, if it reasonably appears that the person being aided is in a situation where the law would allow him to act in self-defense.

For an act taken in the defense of another to be justified, a reasonable person in the defendant’s position must have believed that force was necessary to protect the third party and that a reasonable person would believed that the third party was justified in using such force in his or her own self-defense.  Essentially, the rules of self-defense apply if the defendant reasonably believed the victim was entitled to use force in his or her defense

Defense of Property

A person may use reasonable, non-deadly force to defend his property against someone who has no right to it. A person may also use reasonable, non-deadly force, to regain lawful possession of his property where possession has been momentarily interrupted by someone with no right to the property.

Finally, a person may also use reasonable, non-deadly force, to remove a trespasser from his property after the trespasser has been requested to leave and has refused to do so.  If the defendant uses force in either of those situations, it is if a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would have believed that force was necessary to defend, regain possession of, or remove a trespasser from his or her property.  Deadly force is not authorized to defend property.  

Case Results: Assault with Dangerous Weapon

Assault with Dangerous Weapon and Assault and Battery: Continued Without a Finding for Nine Months

Police responded to a residence in Mansfield, Massachusetts for a report of a domestic disturbance. Following a verbal dispute between a man, his brother and their mother, the man grabbed a kitchen knife and ordered his brother out of the residence. The brother then packed his belongings before leaving. Their mother assisted him with packing. The man, still hot-tempered, attacked his mother by striking her twice in the left side of her head causing her to fall to the ground and hit her head on a chair. She also sustained a laceration from a box cutter she was holding just before being struck by her son. The brother retreated to call 911. Police arrived, entered the home and observed the mother at the top of the stairs with a box cutter in her hand and blood on her clothing and neck. The man was placed under arrest for Assault with a Dangerous Weapon on his brother, and Assault and Battery on his mother. The man hired Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer, John L. Calcagni III, to represent him in this case. Following ongoing negotiations with the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, Attorney Calcagni successfully persuaded prosecutors to continue this case without a finding for nine months with the sole condition that the man complete 24 hours of community service. If the man satisfies this condition and is not charged with a new offense during the CWOF period, the matter will be dismissed and eligible to be sealed.

Assault on a Vulnerable Person

A vulnerable person includes pregnant women, people over the age of 60, children under the age of 14, and people with severe disabilities. Assault and battery on anyone of these groups of people could result in very serious criminal charges.

Depending on the severity of the injury, a conviction in an assault on a vulnerable person case could result in a maximum prison sentence between two and a half years and ten years. There is also the possibility of a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Assault With Intent to Murder

Assault with intent to murder is also know as assault for a particular purpose. If you commit assault while attempting to rob, steal or commit another felony, you will receive assault for a particular purpose charge. The penalties for this type of conviction include up to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.


John L. Calcagni has years of experience defending people from criminal charges. If receive any of the following charges, call (508) 213-9113 to schedule a free consultation with top Massachusetts Assault Defense Lawyers of the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III, and learn the best way to proceed with your case.