Domestic violence is a charge that can be difficult to prove in court. Prosecutors often have to deal with witnesses who don’t want to comply and may not even have enough evidence to present to the court. The situations that often lead to Minnesota domestic violence charges happen behind closed doors, with the only witnesses being the victim and the person accused of perpetrating the crime.
In many cases, it’s ultimately up to the jury to decide what happened after both sides have presented the evidence in court. That begs the question: How does the prosecution prove domestic violence in a Minnesota court? This information is helpful for understanding if you’re facing domestic violence charges in the state.
Domestic Violence in Minnesota: How It Differs from Assault
You may wonder how domestic violence crimes, such as domestic assault, differ from other types of assault in Minnesota. The difference lies in who the crime is perpetrated against.
In Minnesota, assault is when a person intentionally attempts to inflict bodily harm on another or commit an act intended to put another person in fear of immediate death or bodily harm. When this is done to a stranger or someone not in your household or family, it’s charged as an assault. But when it’s perpetrated against a member of your household or family, it’s domestic violence.
Under the law, someone in your family or household is a person you are or were married to, those related to you by blood or marriage, anyone you have or currently live with, anyone you share a child with, or anyone you have or are currently dating.
Evidence Used by Prosecutors in Minnesota Domestic Violence Cases
There are several types of evidence that a prosecutor can use to demonstrate to the court that you are guilty of the crime you’re being accused of. These include:
If you’re involved in a jury trial, physical evidence is often used to convince a jury. This type of evidence is considered objective rather than subjective, meaning that it’s factual in nature and not biased.
Typically, prosecutors will attempt to enter as much physical evidence as they have into the case to help guarantee a conviction. Examples of this type of evidence include photos of injuries, medical reports, and destroyed or damaged property.
If people heard or saw the event in question, they might be called to testify and relay what they witnessed. The responding officers, as well as the alleged victim, may also be called to testify. Bystanders who don’t know you personally but saw what transpired can also be called to testify in court.
If any witness is reluctant to testify, then the prosecutor generally tries to rely on other types of evidence instead of calling that witness.
Defenses to Domestic Violence in Minnesota
If you are charged with a domestic violence offense in the state, you have the right to tell your side of the story in court. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to secure your conviction. Your defense merely has to raise some questions about the voracity of the evidence against you. A skilled defense attorney can consider your case’s circumstances and find the right defense for you.
In general, domestic violence cases are often defended using one of these tactics:
You may be charged with a domestic violence crime even though you were the one that felt threatened in the situation and acted accordingly – that’s called self-defense. It’s not a crime to protect yourself if you feel threatened, but you cannot use unwarranted force in the situation. For example, you can’t shoot someone who is threatening you with their fist.
Lack of Knowledge
One of the elements of a crime of domestic violence is that the victim must have believed they were in danger. In these cases, no physical contact need have occurred, they merely must have felt threatened. However, if you didn’t realize your actions would cause the victim to be in fear for their wellbeing or safety, then you may be able to demonstrate that you lacked the knowledge of it. Your attorney may also be able to show that other reasonable people would not have been in fear if they were in the victim’s shoes.
Domestic violence charges are serious and can negatively impact your life. So, ensure you find an attorney properly representing you and your best interests.
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.