In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon is a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison and a $1,000 fine. There are also circumstances in an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon case in Massachusetts that can increase the penalty to up to 15 years in state prison. If charged with this crime, it is essential to understand the legal definition of the charge and to consult an expert legal team.

What is Assault and Battery?

Assault and battery is defined under Massachusetts law as:

  • The defendant touched the victim. The touching can be direct (if the defendant struck the victim) or indirect (the defendant sets a force in motion that struck the victim).
  • The defendant intended to touch the victim, and was not was not accidental or due to negligence.
  • The touching was either likely to cause bodily harm to the victim or was offensive, that is, the victim did not consent to it.

An assault and battery occurs when there is physical contact between the perpetrator and victim which was likely to cause bodily harm. In either an assault or assault and battery charge, the victim does not actually have to suffer any injuries for the defendant to be charged, arrested, or convicted.

What is a Dangerous Weapon?

Under Massachusetts law, a dangerous weapon can be considered any number of objects. Some items are obvious forms of dangerous weapons, but the definition under the law includes any type of object if it is used to inflict harm.

In Massachusetts, some weapons are considered to be inherently dangerous. This includes all types of firearms, certain kinds of knives (such as stilettos, knives with locking blades, and blades over 1 ½ inches) and an eclectic array of items including metallic knuckles, nunchaku and throwing stars.

Other objects are defined as “usually-innocent” but are legally considered dangerous weapons if they are used in a dangerous or potentially dangerous fashion. In this case, a jury must consider the circumstances of the assault and battery and how the object in question was used. Some examples of a “usually-innocent” object used as a dangerous weapon are:

  • The perpetrator is wearing a shoe with a sharp heel and uses it to stab the victim
  • A glass is thrown at a victim and shatters, causing multiple lacerations
  • A driver deliberately hits the victim with their car
  • A brick is thrown at a victim and strikes them on the leg
  • A pillow is used to try and suffocate the victim

In an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon case, even if the defendant only made contact with the victim with a dangerous weapon, but did not actually inflict an injury, they can still be convicted and sentenced.

Other Penalties for Assault and Battery With a Dangerous Weapon 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has additional laws and penalties for particular factors in an incident of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

  • If the victim is aged 60 years or older, and it is the defendant’s second offense or higher, the prison sentence is a minimum of two years without parole.

The following circumstances have a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine:

  • The defendant knowingly commits assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a pregnant woman.
  • The victim is a child under the age of 14, and the defendant is age 17 or older, whether or not the defendant knew the child’s age.
  • The victim had a restraining order against the defendant at the time of the assault.
  • The assault and battery with a dangerous weapon results in serious bodily injury. This is defined as an injury that causes permanent disfigurement, the loss or impairment of a limb or bodily function, or a serious risk of death.

As well as protections for older people, children, and pregnant women, there are also additional protections in assault and battery cases for public employees while they are working, police officers and emergency medical technicians, health care providers, and members of the defendant’s family or household.

Defenses Against Assault and Battery With a Dangerous Weapon

A potential defense against assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in Massachusetts is self-defense. For example, if the defendant experienced a home invasion, or accosted in the street, they may have acted out of genuine concern for their own safety, and as a result, committed an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

If the defense argues that the defendant acted in self-defense, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • Did not believe that they were being attacked or about to be attacked, and that they were at great risk of great bodily harm or death
  • Or, the defendant did not do everything reasonable within their power to avoid physical contact before resorting to force
  • Or, the defendant used more force to defend themselves than was necessary. 

Another possible defense is that the defendant did not actually use a dangerous weapon. For example, the prosecution could argue that the defendant kicked the victim and their shoe fit the definition of a dangerous weapon. However, if the shoe was a tennis shoe and not a steel-toed boot, for example, the defense could argue that the charge should be reduced to simple assault and battery.

In the case of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a pregnant woman, the additional protection applies if the defendant knew the woman was pregnant when the crime was carried out. If the woman was not visibly pregnant at the time, or there were circumstances where visual evidence of the pregnancy were obscured, the defense could argue against this charge.

If charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in Massachusetts, there are many factors that put you at risk of a prison sentence or heavy fines. It is important to only discuss your case with an

experienced attorney who can navigate the legal system on your behalf, and work toward the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation.