Indecent Assault and Battery

Indecent assault and battery is a serious crime and a conviction carries the possibility of prison time and registration as a sex offender.

Elements of Indecent Assault and Battery

In order to convict a defendant of indecent assault and battery, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The alleged victim was at least 14 years old at the time of the alleged offense;
  2. The defendant intentionally touched the alleged victim without legal justification or excuse;
  3. The defendant touched a part of the body that is commonly thought private, such as a person’s genital area or buttocks, or the breasts of a female; and
  4. The alleged victim did not consent to the touching.

There is a separate crime of indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of 14. The remaining elements are identical.

Common Defenses and Defense Strategies

Indecent assault and battery cases can be defended in a variety of ways.

  • Accident - The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit the indecent assault and battery. If the defendant accidentally touched somebody, he or she is not guilty of indecent assault and battery. An “accident” is defined as an unexpected happening that occurs without intention or design on the defendant’s part. It is a sudden, unexpected event that takes place without the defendant’s intending it.
  • Self-Defense - A defendant is permitted to use reasonable force to defend himself or herself. If the defendant (1) reasonably believed he or she was being attacked or was about to be attacked and his or her personal safety was in immediate danger; (2) made every reasonable effort to avoid physical combat before resorting to force; and (3) used no more force than was reasonably necessary in the circumstances, then the defendant must be found not guilty of indecent assault and battery. There is a very similar defense of another person privilege.
  • Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - If the alleged victim has a criminal record or a history of violence, Attorney Spring will attempt to present this information to the jury. Criminal convictions are generally admissible within a certain time frame (convictions for misdemeanors within the last five years are admissible; convictions for felonies within the last 10 years are admissible). History of violence evidence (also called “prior bad act” evidence) is generally admissible if the defendant is asserting self-defense. Attorney Spring has extensive experience litigating these types of issues.
  • Bias - In most indecent assault and battery cases that go to trial, there is bad blood between the defendant and the alleged victim. The alleged victim ordinarily wants to see the defendant convicted and punished. The alleged victim’s desire for revenge will be fully exposed on cross-examination.

Indecent Assault and Battery in the Marriage - Many indecent assault and battery cases involve disputes between people who are married. In Massachusetts, the Commonwealth cannot force an individual to testify against his or her spouse. Therefore, if the alleged victim is married to the defendant and chooses not to testify, the Commonwealth will need to dismiss the case unless it can be proven without the alleged victim. Attorney Spring will aggressively attempt to persuade prosecutors to dismiss these types of cases.

Even if the alleged victim is not married to the defendant, the alleged victim’s feelings about the case will be very important to the prosecutor. You need to have an attorney who can present the alleged victim’s feelings to the prosecutor and forcefully argue that the case should be dismissed.

Some alleged victims can refuse to testify because they have a Fifth Amendment Privilege. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person can be forced to offer testimony that might incriminate himself or herself in a crime. Therefore, if an alleged victim struck the defendant during the fight or if the alleged victim lied to the police about the facts of the case, that witness can assert his or her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to testify against the defendant.

Given the serious consequences that result from a conviction for indecent assault and battery, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Chris Spring has the necessary experience to aggressively defend your case.

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