Regardless of where you are, an assault charge is serious business. But here in Minnesota, you could be facing some of the harshest penalties in the country if you’re charged with assault.
We take assault so seriously that we have five different degrees of assault, each with their own conditions and penalties. If you or someone you love has been charged, you need to understand what the various degrees mean and how you could be impacted.
Assault in the First Degree
Assault in the first degree is the most serious assault charge in Minnesota. You can be charged with this crime for inflicting great bodily harm on another person or using deadly force against a peace officer, prosecuting attorney, judge, or correctional employee.
The punishment for first degree assault is up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $30,000.
Assault in the Second Degree
If it’s alleged that you assaulted someone with a dangerous weapon, you could be charged with assault in the second degree. If you simply used a dangerous weapon, you could face up to 7 years in prison and a fine up to $14,000. If you used a dangerous weapon and inflicted substantial body harm, you could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $20,000.
What is considered a dangerous weapon?
A gun is a dangerous weapon regardless of whether it’s loaded or unloaded. But a baseball bat, knife, and a flammable liquid like gasoline are all considered dangerous weapons as well.
Assault in the Third Degree
There are three scenarios where someone could be arrested on third degree assault charges:
- An assault that causes substantial bodily harm
- An assault on a minor when a history of child abuse is present
- An assault on a child under the age of 4 with bodily harm to the head, eyes, or neck, or multiple bruises
If someone is convicted of assault in the third degree, he or she could be facing up to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Assault in the Fourth Degree
Depending on who the victim of an assault is, someone could face fourth degree assault charges.
If the assault is against a police officer, school official, public employee, members of a community crime prevention group, vulnerable adults, reserve officers, postal service and utility employees, or transit operators, the alleged offender will be charged with a gross misdemeanor. In Minnesota, a gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $3,000.
If the assault is against a firefighter, paramedic or EMT, medical professional, or the assault inflicts demonstrable bodily harm to someone listed above, the assault will be raised to a felony, which is punishable by up to 3 years in jail and a fine up to $6,000.
Assault in the Fifth Degree
Assault in the fifth degree carries a misdemeanor charge, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. Someone is guilty of assault in the fifth degree if he or she:
“Commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another.”
Notice with this charge that you don’t have to actually complete the assault; you just have to attempt to assault someone.
Defending Assault Charges
Although Minnesota law goes into detail concerning assault charges, every situation is different. That’s why it’s not enough to simply understand your charges. You also need to have a knowledgeable Minnesota assault attorney by your side to look at the nuances of the law to help you get your charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed.
Depending on the details surrounding your case, an experienced lawyer might use certain defense strategies that will work in your favor, such as:
- Self-defense: In order to claim self-defense, you have to show that someone else threatened to harm you, you feared for your safety, you didn’t provoke the other person, and you weren’t able to escape the situation.
- Defending others: If you stepped up to defend someone else from harm instead of yourself, you may be able to use this defense in court.
- Defending property: If you were defending your personal property, especially if it’s your home, you may have been just in using reasonable force against someone.
- Intoxication: If you were intoxicated, you probably didn’t have the intent to cause harm, so this may be beneficial to your case.
Assault charges can affect your entire life, but just because you’ve been charged with a crime doesn’t mean you’re guilty of that crime. Contact an experienced Minnesota assault attorney with a proven track record to fight your charges today.
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).