| Read Time: 8 minutes

Experienced Minnesota Defense Lawyers Explain the Types of Assault in Minnesota

The crime of assault covers a large category of offenses. They are all serious crimes.

You could go to jail and have to pay large fines no matter what degree of assault in Minnesota you face. Also, convictions for all types of assault have other consequences that can impact your daily life.

Facing assault charges in Minnesota is frightening. What should you do if you get charged for any degree of assault in MN? You need help from an experienced Minnesota defense lawyer.

Criminal defense lawyer John Arechigo of Arechigo & Stokka has a well-earned reputation as a tenacious attorney. He will fight aggressively to protect your rights and get you the best possible outcome for your case.

Degrees of Assault in Minnesota

Before we discuss the degrees of assault in Minnesota, we should define the term assault. Minnesota statutes define assault as either:

  • Any act committed with the intent to cause another person fear of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • Any intentional act that inflicts or attempts to inflict various degrees of bodily harm on someone else.

In Minnesota, assault combines the concept of battery as well. 

What Are the Degrees of Assault?

The lowest form of assault is simple assault or assault in the fifth degree and is considered a misdemeanor.

Assault in the fourth degree is a wobbler offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Third, second, and first-degree assault are all felony offenses. 

What Is the Lowest Charge of Assault?

The lowest charge of assault is simple assault, typically classified as a misdemeanor. This charge involves intentionally or recklessly causing physical harm to another person or making them fear imminent harm. Simple assault does not involve serious injury or the use of a weapon.

Simple assault is generally a misdemeanor, but prosecutors can file it as a gross misdemeanor or felony charge if the defendant has a prior conviction or assaulted the same person repeatedly.

Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges Dismissed

Attorney John Arechigo Secures Dismissal of 3rd Degree Sexual Assault Charge Prior to Trial

THE FACTS: Client was charged with 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Anoka County. The client and the complaining witness had been in a romantic relationship for several years and have lived together at the time of the allegations. The client’s relationship with his partner had started to deteriorate and client had indicated he was going to leave the relationship. The client and his partner like to engage in sexual role play. They knew each other’s comfort levels and had built in safe words. Client and his partner engaged in sexual activity near the end of their relationship. Client’s former partner later reported to police that client took advantage of him during the sexual encounter and forced him to engage in intercourse. The client maintained his innocence and consistently explained that he and his former partner engaged in consensual sexual activity and that he was not capable of forcing his former partner to engage in sexual activity that he did not wish to have.

THE DEFENSE: The Anoka County Attorney’s Office filed a felony charge of 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and a separate charge of Domestic Assault against the client. The client faced a presumptive prison sentence of 48 months in prison if convicted of the Third Degree sexual assault charge and the possibility of having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Criminal defense attorney John Arechigo pursued an aggressive defense. A thorough review of all investigative materials, including all witness statements, recorded interviews, and independent investigation revealed that the complainant’s story simply wasn’t credible. The client was able to provide several text messages between him and his former partner that put their relationship in perspective. Attorney John Arechigo used his own private investigator to interview possible trial witnesses. The totality of the evidence discovered and gathered by the defense revealed that the client’s former partner was not being truthful in his allegations. The prosecuting attorney agreed that there was credible evidence to support taking the case to trial.

THE RESULT: The state dismissed the case three days before trial was set to begin. The client’s entire record related to this incident will soon be expunged.

Assault in the First Degree

Whoever assaults another and inflicts great bodily harm can be charged with First Degree Assault.

“Great bodily harm” means bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.

A court may sentence a person convicted of First Degree Assault to imprisonment for up to 20 years, a fine of up to $30,000, or both.

Using or attempting to use deadly force against a peace officer, prosecutor, judge, or correctional employee while they are in the line of duty also constitutes assault in the first degree.

This is the most serious assault offense on the books. The penalty is a minimum mandatory 10-year prison sentence. The maximum prison sentence is 20 years.

The law does not allow you to get out of prison until you serve your entire sentence, so once you’re sentenced, there is no parole or early release.

The judge can also impose a fine of up to $30,000. The prosecutor has to prove you used deadly force to convict you of assault in the first degree. What does deadly force mean?

Under Minnesota state law, force becomes deadly when the person intends to cause—or knows that the act creates a substantial risk of—death or great bodily harm. 

Assault in the Second Degree

Assault in the second degree is assault with a dangerous weapon. The penalty you face depends on the severity of the victim’s injuries. Assault with a dangerous weapon carries a prison term of up to seven years. There is a maximum $14,000 fine as well. 

The maximum penalty becomes 10 years, and the fine increases to a maximum of $20,000 if the attacker inflicted substantial bodily harm to the victim with a dangerous weapon.

In this case, substantial bodily harm means the fracture of a body part, temporary or substantial loss or impairment to a bodily function or organ, or an injury resulting in temporary but substantial disfigurement. 

What makes a weapon dangerous? Moreover, any device designed to cause death or great bodily harm can be a dangerous weapon. A firearm, even unloaded, is a dangerous weapon.

And ordinary items like a kitchen knife can become a dangerous weapon if someone uses it in a way that could kill or cause great bodily harm. 

Assault in the Third Degree

An assault that leads to substantial bodily harm is assault in the third degree. The penalty for assault in the third degree is no more than five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Moreover, assault in the third degree also applies to assaulting a minor. To prove the case, the prosecutor has to prove a pattern of child abuse, but there is no requirement of substantial bodily injury.    

Additionally, third degree also applies when someone assaults a victim under four years of age and causes bodily injury to the child’s head, eyes, or neck, or inflicts multiple bruises. 

Assault in the Fourth Degree

An assault in the fourth degree can be charged as a gross misdemeanor or a felony. A gross misdemeanor is a kind of middle ground that is more serious than a regular misdemeanor, but not as serious as a felony.

Specifically, assault in the fourth degree is a gross misdemeanor when a person assaults another in the performance of their duties as a public servant. Examples of public servants protected by this law are:

  • Peace officers;
  • Department of Natural Resource employees;
  • School officials;
  • Public employees with certain duties;
  • Community crime prevention members;
  • Vulnerable adults;
  • Reserve officers; 
  • Utility and postal workers; and
  • Transit operators. 

The maximum penalty is one year in prison and a fine of $3,000.

However, assault in the fourth degree becomes a felony in some circumstances. For instance, inflicting demonstrable bodily harm or transferring or throwing bodily fluids on another person in the line of duty is a felony. Felony assault in the fourth degree carries up to three years in prison, and a fine of up to $6,000. 

Assault in the Fifth Degree

Assault in the fifth degree is also known as simple assault. Simple assault is a misdemeanor that carries a jail sentence of up to 90 days.

Simple assault becomes a gross misdemeanor if the accused has a prior conviction within the last 10 years for a domestic assault on the same victim. Committing a second domestic assault within three years is also a gross misdemeanor.  

Committing three domestic assaults within ten years on the same victim or in three years on any victim is a felony.  The punishment for felony assault in the fifth degree is five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Domestic Assault

Domestic assault is an assault that occurs between family or household members. Under Minnesota law, family or household members are:

  • Current or former spouses;
  • Parents and children;
  • Blood relations;
  • People who currently or in the past have lived together; 
  • Parents of a child even if they never lived together;
  • A pregnant woman and the baby’s father even if they never lived together; and
  • Anyone involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship.

A domestic assault is a misdemeanor but can become a gross misdemeanor or even a felony if the person was convicted of prior domestic assault offenses within the last 10 years. A misdemeanor carries no more than 90 days in jail, and a gross misdemeanor carries up to one year in jail.

If you own any guns, the judge also has the authority to take them away from you upon conviction. You also face federal prohibitions on lawful gun possession and ownership if you are convicted of even misdemeanor domestic assault.

How Long Do You Stay in Jail for Assault on a Female?

The penalties by the severity of the level of conviction. A misdemeanor assault conviction can result in up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, or both. 

A gross misdemeanor assault conviction carries up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine, or both.

A felony assault conviction carries significant penalties, including up to several years in prison.

Is Assault a Misdemeanor?

5th Degree Assault is a misdemeanor offense.

A 5th Degree Assault charge typically means the accused has not previously committed assault. The charged incident is usually relatively minor. The alleged victim did not suffer significant injuries.

However, Assault offenses can range in severity depending on the circumstances of a particular incident.

Alleged incidents involving peace officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other state employees, or assaults allegedly motivated by bias are gross misdemeanors and carry enhanced penalties.

More serious situations involving more significant injuries and/or use of weapons can enhance an Assault charge to a felony.

Is Spitting on Someone Assault in Minnesota?

Spitting or attempting to spit on someone (i.e., spit and miss) is assault in Minnesota.

Other examples of assault include brandishing a weapon in a manner suggesting you’ll strike someone, pretending or threatening to punch or hit someone, and pointing a gun at someone (loaded or not).

Substantial Bodily Harm Examples

An alleged assault that results in “substantial bodily harm” will lead to a more serious assault charge. One of the most common examples of substantial bodily harm is a broken bone.

Other examples include injuries requiring stitches, loss of a limb, loss of consciousness, a concussion, gunshot wounds, organ damage, and severe burns. 

Felony Assault vs. Misdemeanor Assault

Determining whether to charge an alleged incident as a misdemeanor or felony assault requires careful consideration of the circumstances of the particular incident.

What were the injuries? Why did the alleged incident occur? Was a weapon used? Was the accused acting in self-defense or in the defense of others?

These factors will determine the type of charge the state files and also sets the starting point of our defense.

Get the Help You Need to Defend Any Degree of Assault in Minnesota

Need help? Attorney John Arechigo has the experience needed to help get the best result possible for your case. Minnesota criminal defense lawyer John Arechigo has an excellent reputation in the Twin Cities legal community.

Among his many accolades, John is the only lawyer to earn the recognition as Attorney of the Year twice before reaching 40.

Call John at 651-419-5366 or send him a confidential message to set up your free consultation today!

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

Rate this Post
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
5 votes, average: 3.40 out of 5