In a recent Massachusetts aggravated assault case, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery by a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, and threatening. The case arose from the defendant allegedly kicking the victim multiple times with a closed-toe shoe while the victim was trying to go down a flight of stairs to get away from her. The kicks were such that the victim needed help from her boyfriend to avoid falling down.
Among other things, the defendant claimed that “dangerous weapon” as described in M.G. L. c. 265, § 15A(b) was unconstitutionally vague. A law is considered unconstitutionally vague if people with ordinary intelligence have to guess at what it means. When a law has been clarified by a court’s explanation, it withstands such a challenge. “Dangerous weapon” has a meaning that’s regularly applied, and dangerous weapons include objects designed and constructed to cause death or catastrophic injuries, as well as objects that aren’t dangerous per se but become dangerous based on how they’re used. Whether a weapon is dangerous within the law’s meaning is a question for the jury or fact-finding judge.
The appellate court reasoned that someone of usual intelligence would realize that using closed-toed shoes to kick someone multiple times as they went down the stairs was prohibited by the statute. It found no error on this point.