Assault & Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon
LEGAL ELEMENTS OF THIS CRIME, AND WHAT THE COMMONWEALTH MUST PROVE TO OBTAIN A CONVICTION
There are two legal elements of this crime:
- The defendant intended to commit, and did commit, an underlying assault and battery. (Click on this link to learn the legal elements of assault and battery.)
- The defendant assaulted and/or battered the victim with the use of a dangerous weapon.
To secure a conviction on this charge, the prosecution must prove these two legal elements to a jury or judge beyond a reasonable doubt (that’s no surprise to anyone who’s ever watched a TV crime show).
However, here’s where these cases can become tricky: The Massachusetts Legislature has never defined the term “Dangerous Weapon.” So, exactly what is one? Many times, as with the use of a gun or knife, the answer is obvious and not subject to debate. Other times, however, the answer isn’t so clear. Case law has provided the courts with a general legal interpretation, which broadly speaking, is as follows: A “dangerous weapon” is any weapon that the defendant exercised under his control during the alleged commission of the crime, which is likely to cause death or inflict serious bodily injury. Many items, not normally considered dangerous, can be legally deemed to constitute a “dangerous weapon,” owing to the manner in which the item(s) was used by the defendant in the process of allegedly committing the assault and battery. Some unlikely examples: A chair; a book; a pen. More obvious examples: A small baseball bat; a paperweight. Or even a woman’s stiletto heel.
Because of the much more severe sentences and punishments that follow a conviction of Massachusetts Assault and Battery With a Dangerous Weapon, (See Penalties, below,) the primary legal challenge in these cases is to get the charges reduced to “simple” assault and battery. To successfully do this, it is critical that your Massachusetts assault and battery with a dangerous weapon lawyer be extremely experienced at this skill, and possess an expert-level qualification with these cases. Do not make a mistake in your choice of attorney, or you could end up facing a state prison term. We have been very successful in either dismissing these charges outright or in reducing the charges to eliminate the exposure to a severe prison sentence.
PENALTIES UPON CONVICTION – BASIC PUNISHMENT
The statute governing this crime provides for “base” penalties, which are increased if certain additional factors accompany the commission of the crime. The statute provides for base punishment ranges of either a maximum state prison sentence of 10 years, or a sentence to a County Jail/House of Correction for a maximum of 2.5 years, or a maximum fine of $5,000, or both incarceration and a fine. Note: As I’ve said elsewhere on this website, a state prison sentence is not the same as a sentence to a County Jail/House of Correction. County Jail sentences usually run no longer than 2.5 years, and inmates there are generally incarcerated for more minor offenses. State prison is very different: Sentences are much longer than 2.5 years, the inmates imprisoned there are generally being incarcerated for very violent offenses, and the overall environment is very severe. Take our word for it: You don’t want to end up there.
ADDITIONAL PENALTIES AND PUNISHMENT
When certain additional factors are present with the charge of Massachusetts Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon, the punishment following a conviction is increased substantially. The penalties escalate when one of the following four additional factors are present:
- The defendant inflicted serious bodily injury on the victim
- The defendant committed the underlying assault and battery against a victim who the defendant knew or had reason to know was pregnant when the incident occurred
- The defendant committed the underlying assault and battery against a person that the defendant knew had an Abuse Prevention Order (Restraining Order) or a Harassment Prevention Order against him or her when the incident occurred
- The defendant was age 17 years or older at the time of the incident, and committed the underlying assault and battery against a victim who was age 14 or less
If any one of these additional factors above is present, the punishment increases to a maximum of 15 years’ incarceration in state prison, or a sentence to a County Jail/House of Correction for a maximum of 2.5 years, and a maximum fine of $10,000.00
It doesn’t end there. An additional factor that results in more severe punishment is when a defendant is convicted of committing an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person who is age 60 years or older, for the second time. For this second offense, a defendant is subject to incarceration of up to 10 years in state prison, or a maximum of 2.5 years in a County Jail/House of Correction, or a maximum fine of $1,000.00. Upon conviction of a second offense, there is a mandatory minimum jail sentence of at least 2 years.