Most people think of assault as physically hurting someone, but in Minnesota, that is only one way to commit the offense – you can also be charged for acting in a way that makes someone afraid that you’re about to hurt them. Of course, those are two very different things. How does Minnesota law account for this? By creating multiple degrees of assault.
There are actually five different degrees of assault in our state, each with unique charges and consequences. These associated penalties can range from a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for a fifth degree assault all the way up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for first degree assault.
With such serious penalties, you need to put forth the strongest possible defense no matter what degree of assault you’ve been charged with. That means working with an experienced Minnesota assault lawyer who can point to a track record of success. He or she will be able to look at the facts of your case and tell you which strategies are most likely to lead to positive results.
Below, we will to detail some of the defenses that can be used to fight assault charges.
These types of strategies acknowledge that you did commit the act in question, but argue that your behavior should not be considered a crime for a variety of reasons.
Self-defense. This is one of the most common strategies used against charges of assault, and also one of the easiest to explain.
Essentially, your argument is that you engaged in assault as a way to defend yourself against the threatening behavior of another. If you use self-defense to argue against your charge, you will want to show that the other party was the aggressor, that their actions reasonably called for you to defend yourself, and that the manner in which you defended yourself did not involve unnecessary force.
There are two additional “defense” defenses that are closely related to this one: defense of others and defense of property. For these two strategies, your argument is not that you were acting to protect yourself, but rather another individual or a piece of personal property.
Typically, the strongest “defense of property” strategies involve someone protecting their home from an invader. Talk to your attorney to see if they believe defense of property is a viable strategy in your situation.
Consent. The logic behind using consent as an affirmative defense is that an act cannot legally constitute assault if the parties involved agreed to the act ahead of time. Imagine, for example, that one boxer tried to accuse the other of assault for punching him during their fight. Obviously, that wouldn’t fly, because they had to have agreed to the match ahead of time. It’s understood that punching is basically the point of boxing.
However, let’s say those same two boxers agreed to fight each other in a boxing match, and one decided to start the match early by catching the other boxer in an alley and beating on him. He would not be able to argue that his actions were legal because the other fighter consented. His actions constituted an act that exceeded the permission given.
Consent is only used rarely. If you’re not sure whether it could be a useful argument in your case, consult with your attorney.
These are types of strategies that call into question the actual behavior that you are alleged to have engaged in.
Lack of credibility. With this defense, you’re basically saying that the alleged victim (or a witness) is lying and arguing that their story doesn’t add up. If your lawyer employs this strategy, he or she will likely attack inconsistencies in the statements of the alleged victim and witnesses as a way of poking holes in the prosecution’s case and raising doubts. This may involve the use of contrary evidence or rebuttal witnesses who recount a different version of events.
Additionally, a lack of credibility defense often looks at the character and past of anyone testifying or providing evidence against you in an attempt to argue they should not be trusted for one reason or another.
Wrong person. Our memories are unreliable. They’re clouded by emotions. Biases. Embellishments. Details that we truly and honestly believe to be true, but quite simply aren’t when stacked against definitive evidence, such as a video recording.
Because of this, alleged victims accuse the wrong people with crimes all the time. Maybe you looked similar to the person who really did commit the act. Perhaps you’re just the same race. You could even be accused because you happened to be near the action, and the alleged victim remembered your face instead of their attacker’s.
If you really were mistaken for someone else, there are many ways you can dispute your charge. Bring in witnesses who will testify that it wasn’t you. Seek out surveillance footage or other video recordings showing the real perpetrator.
Alibi. An even stronger version of the “wrong person” defense is if you can offer evidence showing that you were somewhere else when the alleged assault occurred. A party where the people there can vouch for you. On a plane. At work.
The “where” doesn’t matter as much as the fact that the evidence supporting your claim is convincing. In other words, a video or photo of you in another location at the same time will be stronger than, say, a movie ticket stub.
Start Building Your Minnesota Assault Defense Now
Speed matters in criminal cases. Ideally, you want to start working with a knowledgeable Minnesota assault lawyer as soon as possible. Not only will this give him or her more time to craft the best possible defense, it will also give them a better chance at collecting and utilizing time-dependent evidence, and it can enable them to keep you from saying or doing anything that might harm your case.
So, don’t delay. Get in touch now, and we can set up a free initial consultation to go over the facts of your case and lay out the options that are available to you.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).