Under Massachusetts law, anyone who commits assault or assault and battery may be punished by imprisonment for not more than two and a half years in a house of correction or with a fine of not more than $1,000. However, a defendant can be punished by up to five years in state prison or in the house of correction or by a fine of up to $5,000, or both a fine and imprisonment, when he or she commits assault and battery causing serious bodily injury.
Serious bodily injury includes those injuries that result in permanent disfigurement, the loss or impairment of a bodily function, limb, or organ, or the substantial risk that the victim will die. In a 2014 case, Commonwealth v. Rainey, a Massachusetts appellate court considered the conviction of a defendant convicted of assault and battery causing serious injury. He had appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence of serious bodily injury for the conviction and that the Commonwealth had failed to prove there was an absence of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
The appellate court explained that a reasonable jury could have interpreted what happened as follows. Three female friends arrived by car to a party. At the party they met a male they knew (Donald Gammon, the victim) who had been drinking and was holding a beer can. They walked towards the party and passed a group that included the defendant. The defendant gave one of the victim's friends the middle finger as they passed by.