Assault with Intent to Murder/Kill

There are two different crimes in Massachusetts which make it a criminal offense to assault an individual with the intent or murder or maim, or to assault another with the intent to kill without malice. The difference between the two crimes is that assault with intent to murder or maim requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed a desire to inflict injury, harm or suffering, otherwise known as malice. Evidence of malice may be satisfied with three mental states: (1) an intent to cause death, (2) an intent to cause grievous bodily harm, or (3) an intentional act which, in the circumstances known to the defendant, a reasonable person would have known created a plain and strong likelihood of death. Assault with intent to kill is considered a lesser crime, in which the prosecution does not have the duty to establish the element of malice. If you have been charged with either of these violent crimes, ensure the best outlook for your future by contacting an experienced assault crimes lawyer at once.

Assault with Intent to Murder or Maim

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, Section 15 governs the crime of assault with intent to murder or maim. The statute provides that any individual who assaults another while possessing the intent to commit murder, or to maim or disfigure another person in any way is subject to the following punishments:

  • Incarceration in the state prison for a maximum sentence of 10 years
  • Imprisonment in jail for up to 2.5 years
  • A maximum fine of $1,000

In order for the prosecution to secure a conviction on this charge, they must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the defendant committed an assault, and (2) at the time of the assault, the defendant had a specific intent to kill the victim. In regard to the “specific intent”, this requires the jury to find that the defendant made a decision in his or her mind to kill the victim.

Assault with Intent to Kill (Without Malice)

During the trial for an assault with intent to murder or maim charge, if either party introduces evidence of a mitigating factor, a jury will not be able to convict a defendant of assault with intent to murder, but instead assault with intent to kill.

One who assaults another with intent to commit a felony is subject to the following punishments pursuant to M. G. L. c. 265, § 29:

  • Incarceration in the state prison for a maximum of 10 years, or
  • A maximum fine of $1,000 and imprisonment in jail for no more than 2.5 years

A mitigating factor arises when the specific circumstances of a case provide evidence that the defendant acted reasonably due to the presence of extraneous circumstances; such as in the heat of passion, in an instance of sudden combat, or due to reasonable provocation. There must be adequate evidence establishing a situation which would prompt a reasonable person to experience such a state of anger, passion, fear, fright, or nervous excitement that would overcome ones ability to control his or her emotions and that is in fact what happened in the specific case. The prosecution must be able to prove (1) the initial assault, (2) a specific intent to kill, and (3) the absence of malice.

Negating Specific Intent

To convict an individual in either of the crimes described above, the prosecution must prove that the defendant possessed a specific intent to kill the victim. Because the element of intent is a state of mind, it must usually be inferred from the facts of the case, as direct evidence of ones mental state rarely exists. Specific intent is considered an essential element in proving many different crimes, and therefore, defendants and their defense attorneys often argue that they did not possess the specific intent required and consequently cannot be held liable for their crime. In Massachusetts, drug and alcohol intoxication, as well as mental illness, may be used as evidence to raise reasonable doubt about whether a defendant is even capable of possessing a required specific intent. It is important to note that in the event that a defense attorney is able to negate the intent to murder due to intoxication or mental illness, a defendant may still be found guilty of assault. For these reasons, it is an absolute necessity that you enlist the help of an intelligent Massachusetts criminal defense attorney.

Competent and Capable Assault Crimes Defense Lawyer

Courts view assault crimes in Massachusetts very seriously, therefore it is crucial that you obtain the best legal counsel when facing an Assault with Intent to Murder or Kill charge. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has 18 years of successful experience defending clients facing charges of violent crimes. Attorney Murphy is a highly skilled and knowledgeable Boston-area defense attorney who has built a successful and reputable career defending his clients. For a free and confidential assessment of you case, please call (617) 367-0450 or completing the contacts tab on our website.

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