Minnesota has some of the toughest assault laws in the country, which is why anyone facing charges of domestic assault may find they will have to serve a lengthy term of incarceration and pay a substantial fine if convicted.
While domestic assault in the state has varying degrees that depend on your criminal history and any injury to the victim, it’s a serious situation no matter what degree you get charged with. That’s why it’s vital to understand how Minnesota deals with domestic abuse and what you should do if you get charged with it.
How Minnesota Defines Domestic Assault
Under the law in Minnesota, domestic assault occurs when a household or family member assaults another within that household or family. It can happen in many ways, from causing physical harm to someone in your household or family to putting them in fear of physical harm or injury.
Who Qualifies as a Household or Family Member Under MN Law?
You can be charged with domestic assault if you cause physical harm or put any one of the following people in fear of physical harm:
- Anyone related to you by blood
- Anyone you are dating
- Anyone you share a child with
The victims are not the people who ultimately decide if you get charged with domestic assault in Minnesota. They have no authority in the situation and can only lend their testimony to what occurred. The police will be the ones to decide if someone gets arrested and ultimately charged with this crime in the state.
Different Levels of Domestic Assault in Minnesota
In our state, domestic assault is an enhanceable defense. That means that if you are ever found guilty of this crime, future charges against you within a certain period of time can be enhanced. As a result, you can face more severe penalties.
In general, however, there are three levels in Minnesota of domestic assault. They are:
The first time you get charged with domestic assault, it is likely to be a misdemeanor unless there are aggravating circumstances involved in the case. You also must have had no prior criminal convictions within the past 10 years to be charged at the misdemeanor level.
If you have a prior conviction for domestic assault in the past decade, you will likely be charged with a gross misdemeanor.
Anyone who has two or more convictions for domestic assault on their criminal record in the past decade can get charged with a felony.
There is also domestic assault by strangulation, which is a specific kind of felony domestic assault. It occurs when someone blocks another’s breathing or blood flow by using pressure on a person’s throat or neck. For this act, a person can face felony charges – even without prior convictions.
What Are the Penalties for Domestic Assault in Minnesota?
Every case is unique, with its own set of facts, and every sentence handed down is determined by the facts of the case. However, the state has created guidelines to help determine penalties.
Misdemeanor domestic assault comes with up to 90 days in prison and pay fines of as much as $1,000. The penalties go up to three years behind bars and fines of $5,000 in felony cases involving strangulation.
There are also enhancements for domestic assault charges in the state. If you have any of these previous convictions on your criminal record, then you can have your charges elevated one level to a gross misdemeanor or even a felony:
- Protection Order violation
- Terroristic threats
- Sending images that depict sexual situations without consent
- Murder in the first or second degree
- Criminal sexual conduct
- Interfering with an emergency call
- Violation of a restraining order for harassment
- Any violation of a domestic violence-related law from another state
If you have a conviction in one of the above categories, the penalties can increase by one year of incarceration and additional fines. If two or more convictions exist on your record, the sentence for incarceration can go up by five years with additional fines of $10,000.
Domestic abuse charges are not simple, and they’re not something you should brush off if you find yourself facing them. Hire an experienced attorney to help you navigate the sometimes choppy legal waters.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is 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 has been named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.