Penalties for Massachusetts Domestic Assault and Battery Charges

Attorney DelSignore wrote an Article on the Sixth Amendment in Domestic Assault and Battery cases for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and has spoken on the topic at MCLE training for lawyers.

A Massachusetts domestic assault and battery can be charged in a number of different ways:

  1. Assault and Battery;
  2. Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon;
  3. Violating a 209A Restraining Order;
  4. Witness Intimidation.

All four of these charges if occurring in the context of a family, dating relationship or spouse relationship will be considered a domestic charge by the prosecutors in Massachusetts.

Assault & Battery

A domestic assault and battery charge in Massachusetts carries with it a maximum potential penalty of 2.5 years in the house of correction. For someone with little or no record, jail time in a case with no injuries probably would not be imposed.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: After admission or accepting a plea on a domestic assault and battery charge, a common condition of probation is completing either one of the following programs:

  • Anger management, 16 weeks.
  • Certified Batter’s Program, 40 Weeks.

A domestic assault charge can also be brought as assault and battery with a dangerous weapon:

Felony Assault & Battery

An assault and battery with a dangerous weapon is a felony charge. An assault with a dangerous weapon is a charge where the Commonwealth can seek an indictment, moving the case to superior court and raising the maximum penalty to ten years in the State prison. Most domestic assault and battery charges will remain in the district court unless there is substantial injury to the victim or the defendant has a history of domestic violence and or violent crime.

What Constitutes a Dangerous Weapon?

A dangerous weapon can involve items that would ordinarily be viewed as dangerous, like a knife or baseball bat, but also constitutes any item not inherently dangerous that was used in a dangerous fashion, like a persons foot, it could be a television remote control or any item that was used in the course of an incident in a dangerous fashion.

If the Victim Testifies

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: If a victim testifies at a domestic assault and battery trial, even if the defendant has no record, jail time is a possibility as it is more difficult to predict how a judge will sentence on a domestic assault and battery versus other criminal offenses. There are not as many domestic assault and battery trials as compared to an OUI, so judges do not have as predictable a track record as to how they will sentence. Also, at sentencing, the judge would ask to hear from the victim; in most cases the victim probably would request jail time after testifying in court.

In some cases, a domestic assault charge can be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor level. This means that in exchange for a plea a prosecutor would agree to reduce the charge from assault and battery with a dangerous weapon to simple assault. Any amendment of a criminal charge can only come with the agreement of the prosecutor. A judge does not have the authority to amend a charge for the purposes of helping the parties reach a plea agreement.

209A Violations

A 209A violation is a restraining order violation. When a person obtains a restraining order, it is a civil order and the judge decides whether it should issue based on a civil standard. A violation of the order is a misdemeanor criminal charge and if it involves someone in a dating relationship, spouse or family member, it will be regarded as a domestic case. The maximum possible penalty for a 209A violation is 2.5 years in the house of correction. The statute does impose a significant penalty however:

If you are convicted of a 209A violation, the judge must impose the certified Batter’s Program or put written findings on the record why the program was not ordered in the case.

Witness Intimidation

A charge of Witness Intimidation in Massachusetts is a felony offense that often accompanies a domestic assault charge. Typically, the allegation is that the individual prevented the complaining party from calling the police or attempted to prevent the crime from being reported. A common scenario involving witness intimidation involves of a claim that a cell phone was destroyed during the incident.

What to do if facing a domestic assault and battery charge in Massachusetts?

If you were charged with a domestic assault and battery offense, it is important to call Attorney DelSignore at 781-686-5924 to discuss your defenses to your case. Call now for a FREE consultation.