Definition of Assault and Battery
An assault and battery is the unconsented and unlawful touching of another person, however slight, if it would be harmful or offensive to a reasonable person. That means that, in addition to fighting with or hitting someone, an assault and battery can be a push, a shove, a slap, or even spitting on someone. A missed punch is an assault without a battery, which is also a criminal offense.
Victim's Can't 'Drop' the Charges
In most jurisdictions, the prosecutors are instructed to pursue a case even where the alleged victim wants the case dropped. If the alleged victim tells the prosecutor that they want the case dropped, the prosecutor will usually tell them that it's not their case to drop, it is the Commonwealth's case. In those instances, there are ways of encouraging the court to drop the case, but only by generating a reason to do so. There are a few different ways to generate cause to have the case dismissed, but they vary greatly depending on the circumstances.
If you or someone you know is charged with assault and battery, contact me to set up a free consultation in which we can discuss ways of seeking a dismissal short of trial.
Defending the Charge of Assault and Battery
In cases where the alleged victim wants to pursue the case, it's a question of who the jury should believe. Often times there is other evidence that can be uncovered to support an alternative theory of the case, or to support a defense such as self defense. There may be other witnesses, or there may be documents such as affidavits filed out by the alleged victim or police that may tell different stories. An attorney can help you find and present evidence that shows the Commonwealth's story is wrong and should not be believed.
The penalty for an assault and battery ranges as high as two and a half years in jail. The sentence that is actually imposed is usually based on (1) the severity of the events, and (2) the defendant's criminal history. A criminal defense attorney can help advise you as to what kind of punishment you might be exposed to based on the facts of your case.
If the alleged victim of an assault and battery is a pregnant woman, a person with a restraining order against the defendant, a person over the age of 65, or a police officer or other public employee, the charge can be increased to aggravated assault and battery and charged as a felony. There are also separate charges for an assault and battery committed with a "dangerous weapon" and "domestic assault and battery" between family members.
See: G.L. c. 265 s. 13A, Aggravated Assault and Battery, Assault and Battery on Police Officer/Public Employee, Assault and Battery, Dangerous Weapon, Domestic Assault and Battery.