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Sentencing Guidelines: Step 3, Chapter 3

Determine Offense Seriousness Level

Table of Contents

Determine Offense Seriousness Level

The Master Crime List contains over 1,800 offenses, each ranked and placed into one of ten levels of seriousness. To determine the offense seriousness level of a crime, locate the offense on the Master Crime List using either the offense name (offense) or General Law reference (offense reference). The offense seriousness level is indicated to the left of each entry.

Where multiple offense convictions result from the same criminal conduct, the most serious offense according to the rankings in the Master Crime List should be treated as the governing offense for determining the base sentence.


Offense Seriousness Level Zero

Offense seriousness level zero is a new offense level which carries no incarceration, no probation, no supervision and no fees or fines. In some jurisdictions this is known as “adjudication without more”.


Certain offenses, that may cover a large range of conduct, for example, Assault and Battery, Dangerous Weapon, have been staircased (i.e., placed at more than one level of offense seriousness on the sentencing guidelines grid). These offenses are identified by a notation on the Master Crime List. When offenses are staircased, determine the appropriate level by taking into account:

  • the value of property lost (e.g., Larceny); or
  • the degree of injury to victim (e.g., Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon); or
  • the display of a gun (e.g., Armed Robbery); or
  • dwelling versus non-dwelling (e.g., Breaking and Entering).

Illustration 1: An Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon resulting in no or minor injury has been placed at offense seriousness level 3; resulting in moderate injury at offense seriousness level 4; and resulting in significant injury at offense seriousness level 6. Degree of injury is defined in Figure 1.

Ranking misdemeanors

If a misdemeanor does not appear on the Master Crime List its offense seriousness level may be determined by its maximum sentence by statute:

  • Level 2:    Maximum statutory penalty of incarceration for more than 6 months up to and including 2 1/2 years.
  • Level 1:    Maximum statutory penalty of incarceration for 6 months or less.

Second and subsequent convictions

There are certain offenses for which the statute sets forth a more severe penalty upon a second or subsequent conviction (e.g., Assault to Rape). In these cases the offense has been elevated one level on the offense seriousness scale.

Illustration 2: The offense of Assault to Rape has been placed at offense seriousness level 6. The offense of Assault to Rape - Subsequent Offense has been placed at offense seriousness level 7.

Where the offense is already at Level 8 (e.g., Home Invasion) and could not be elevated one level, the guidelines call for the offender to be moved over one cell to the right.

Offenses punishable by fine only

The guidelines do not apply to offenses punishable only by a fine (e.g., failure to report hazing). For purposes of criminal history, these offenses have been assigned to offense seriousness level 0.

Figure 1. Degree of Injury Scale

Level 3 - No Injury, Minor Injury

Minor injuries are injuries which require some emergency treatment, such as lacerations, contusions, or abrasions, which have no residual effect; concussions without lasting neurological impact; physical injuries that are painful and obvious but not in any way disabling; and minimal psychological trauma without lasting effect.

Level 4 - Moderate Injury

Moderate injuries are injuries which involve extreme physical pain and some discernible disability or loss of function of some body member, organ, or mental faculty, such as fractures, internal injuries, or wounds which are serious but not life threatening; and, psychological trauma that results in some temporary or partial disability.

Level 6 - Significant Injury

Significant injuries are injuries which are characterized by a protracted period of total disability or long term impairment of function; loss of function of any body members, organ, or mental faculty; injuries, not necessarily permanently disabling, which require long term medical care or rehabilitative therapy.

Level 7 - Permanent Injury

Permanent injuries are permanent physical disabilities or significant permanent physical impairment or gross permanent disfigurement.


Additional Resources

Contact   for Sentencing Guidelines: Step 3, Chapter 3


John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square - G300, Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: April 26, 2019

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