Penalties for Domestic Assault and Battery in Massachusetts

Domestic assault and battery is when someone commits assault on a family member or any other member of their household. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts takes this crime very seriously. When someone finds themselves being charged with domestic assault and battery, the penalties they stand to face will depend largely on whether they are a first-time or repeat offender.

Restraining Order for domestic assault

First Time Domestic Assault Charge

Even if it is only the first time someone is being charged with domestic assault in Massachusetts, the penalties they stand to face can be life changing. Potentially, they could be facing up to two and a half years imprisonment in the house of correction, as well as being fined up to $5000. When it comes to these penalties, it is not one or the other, the accused can be both imprisoned and fined if found guilty. 

2nd or Subsequent Offense Domestic Assault Charge

If it is not someone’s first time being charged with domestic assault, the penalties become much more serious. While there is no fine for a subsequent charge, the length of imprisonment has the potential to be much longer. The offender could be imprisoned in the house of correction for up to two and a half years, or in the state prison for up to five years. 

Can I Go to Prison for Assault and Battery Charges?

It is definitely possible for someone to be imprisoned when charged with domestic assault, even if they have not yet been convicted. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, anyone who has been arrested under suspicion of committing domestic assault must be held for a minimum of six hours. Additionally, if a Judge decides that they pose a threat to the alleged victim or the public, they can have the accused imprisoned for up to 120 days without bail. 

Domestic Assault Jail Time

As previously mentioned, the amount of jail time a person will serve for a domestic assault conviction can vary widely. Up to two and a half years for a first-time offense, and up to 5 years for each subsequent offense. Exactly just how long the sentence will be is up to the judge. The Judge will take certain factors into consideration when determining the length of the sentence, mainly how severe the alleged assault was. They will also likely take into account how many times the accused has been convicted of domestic assault. For example, for a first-time offense the abuser may just receive a fine, whereas for a third conviction the Judge will be more likely to give the maximum sentence allowed under the law. 

Is Domestic Assault a Felony?

In Massachusetts, domestic assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A number of factors will be taken into consideration by the prosecution when deciding if they will charge the crime as a felony or misdemeanor domestic assault. 

Felony Domestic Assault

After the first time a person is convicted of domestic assault, any subsequent domestic assault will automatically be charged as a felony. However, even first-time domestic assaults can be charged as a felony if one of the following conditions is met.

  • Serious Bodily Harm. This is any assault which causes serious physical damage or harm to a pregnant person.
  • Strangulation. This includes any attempt at all to obstruct the victim’s windpipe.
  • Use of a Dangerous Weapon. The definition of a dangerous weapon can be tricky. While it applies to the obvious, like knives and guns, it can also refer to everyday objects.
  • False Imprisonment. This refers to any attempt made by the offender to prevent the victim from leaving the premises, either through physical force or verbal threats. 
  • Violation of a Protection Order. If the victim already had a protection order, or restraining order, in place against the offender, the domestic assault is automatically a felony.
  • Other Felony Offenses. When another felony is committed during the assault, such as rape or robbery, the assault becomes a felony as well. 

If any of these additional factors can be proven to have taken place during the domestic assault, it will be charged as a felony, regardless of whether or not it is a first-time offense.

Misdemeanor Domestic Assault

In Massachusetts, the only time a domestic assault will be charged as a misdemeanor is for a first-time offense. However, this is not a guarantee. As previously mentioned, certain factors can cause a first-time offense to be upgraded to a felony. In fact, even if none of those factors are present, the prosecution can still choose to charge the offender with a felony if they feel that the assault was particularly serious.

209A Violations

Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209A covers the legal procedures for obtaining a restraining order. Usually a restraining order is sought when an individual believes they are at risk of harm, abuse, or harassment from someone with whom they have a relationship. The types of relationship include:

  • Spouses or ex-spouses
  • Couples who were or still are living together
  • Engaged couples
  • Parents of a child in common
  • Family or household members

Once you have decided that you would like to obtain a restraining order there are a few steps you must take. First, you must file a complaint about the abuse or harassment. This can be done with the help of the court clerk. You will likely have to fill out an affidavit detailing the specific instances of abuse and harassment. Next, a judge will review your case and schedule a hearing. At this hearing, both you and the accused will have an opportunity to present evidence and witnesses. Finally, the judge will decide whether or not to grant the restraining order. It is important to hire experienced legal counsel to have the best chance of having the order granted. 



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