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Facing a fifth-degree assault charge in Minnesota can be confusing and stressful. It can be bewildering if a simple disagreement or misunderstanding quickly escalates into a criminal accusation.

If you experience this, you might be wondering what exactly am I charged with? What are the potential penalties? And perhaps most importantly, How can I protect myself?

At the Criminal Defense Attorney & Workers Compensation Law Offices of Arechigo & Stokka, our experienced St. Paul assault charge lawyers understand the complexities of assault accusations.

Below, we answer your most pressing questions about a 5th-degree assault in Minnesota and explain how our firm can help you build a strong defense.

If you have questions, please contact our St. Paul criminal defense lawyers right away.

What Is Fifth-Degree Assault in Minnesota?

Fifth-degree assault, also known as simple assault, is the least severe assault charge under Minnesota Statutes Section 609.224. Fifth-degree assault applies to situations where an individual intentionally does any of the following acts.

Causes Fear of Immediate Bodily Harm or Death 

This includes threats, verbal abuse, or gestures that make another person believe they are in imminent danger. The key factor is the intention to instill fear of immediate harm.

Inflicts or Attempts to Inflict Bodily Harm 

This includes any form of unwanted and offensive physical contact, regardless of its severity.

Even minor acts like shoves, slaps, or spitting on someone can be classified as 5th-degree assault if they are intentional. The law does not require the act to result in injury; the intent and action alone are enough.

The severity of the assault does not determine whether it qualifies as a fifth-degree assault. The critical elements are the intent and nature of the action.

Accidental contact or unintentional bumps, which lack intent, do not meet the criteria for assault under this statute.

Charges and Penalties for Fifth-Degree Assault in Minnesota

Depending on the severity of the charge, fifth-degree assault in Minnesota can result in various penalties and consequences.

Misdemeanor Convictions

Most 5th-degree assault charges are misdemeanors. If convicted, you could face up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

A misdemeanor conviction for 5th-degree assault can also result in probation that involves community service, anger management classes, and a permanent criminal record.

Gross Misdemeanor

In certain circumstances, a 5th-degree assault charge can be elevated to a gross misdemeanor. Those circumstances include:

  • Serious bodily harm—if the assault results in serious bodily harm to the victim; or
  • Firearm use—simply using a firearm during the assault automatically upgrades the charge to a gross misdemeanor, even if you do not fire the weapon.

The penalty for a gross misdemeanor conviction is steeper, with up to one year in jail and fines up to $3,000.

Felony Convictions

A 5th-degree assault charge can be elevated further to a felony if the following applies:

  • Repeat offender—if you have a prior domestic assault conviction against the same victim within the last 10 years; or
  • Serial domestic violence—if you have committed a second domestic assault on the same victim within three years, a third domestic assault on the same victim within 10 years, or any assault on any victim within three years.

A felony conviction results in imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $10,000.

How Long Does 5th-Degree Assault Stay on Your Record?

A misdemeanor fifth-degree assault conviction in Minnesota will remain on your public background indefinitely, unless or until you successfully pursue an expungement.

During this time, it will appear on background checks, affecting job prospects, housing applications, and professional licenses.

If you are convicted of 5th Degree Assault, you might be eligible to have all public records from the incident and conviction expunged.

Expungement eligibility depends on several factors, and a waiting period of 1-2 years will likely apply before you can pursue an expungement.

The possibility of expungement depends on factors such as the nature of the offense, the time elapsed since the conviction, and your overall criminal history.

Even if the charges are dismissed, or you complete a diversion program, the arrest record might still appear on certain background checks.

What Should You Do If You’ve Been Charged with Fifth-Degree Assault in Minnesota?

Here are the steps to protect yourself and navigate this situation effectively.

Know Your Rights and Stay Silent

Don’t discuss the incident with anyone except your lawyer. Anything you say can be used against you in court, and it likely will be if you choose to talk to the police or prosecutors.

Protect yourself by exercising your right to remain silent. Politely and firmly request to see your lawyer. If the authorities continue to question you after you ask for a lawyer, politely decline to speak and repeat your request.

Hire an Experienced St. Paul Assault Charges Attorney

A proficient assault attorney can clarify your options, construct a robust defense customized to your specific case, and advocate for your rights throughout the legal process.

Gather Evidence

Try to collect evidence supporting your innocence, such as witness statements or security footage. Certain evidence—like store security footage—only exists for a short time.

Most businesses and even residential security cameras tape over previous footage in a relatively short time. So don’t wait to collect evidence that might not be there a month from now.

Your lawyer will help you gather evidence, but if you don’t hire one right away, you might want to do what you can to secure evidence. 

Follow Your Attorney’s Advice Closely

Your lawyer is your partner. Following their guidance is crucial to avoid jeopardizing your case. They’ll advise you on the best course of action and keep you informed of any developments.

Proactively cooperating with your lawyer is critical to a favorable outcome.

Why You Need a St. Paul Criminal Defense Attorney by Your Side

An experienced attorney from Arechigo & Stokka can be your champion in the fight for your rights, reputation, freedom, and a fair outcome. Here are some benefits you’ll receive from having our lawyers by your side.

  • Expert defense strategy. Our attorneys are experts in Minnesota assault laws. They will analyze every detail of your case to build the most effective defense possible, tailored specifically to your situation.
  • Negotiation skills. A skilled negotiator can engage with the prosecutor to get your charges dismissed, reduced to a lesser offense, or secure alternative sentencing like probation or community service.
  • Courtroom confidence. Having a seasoned attorney by your side is invaluable if your case goes to trial. They’ll represent you effectively, ensuring your rights are protected and presenting a solid case to the judge and jury.
  • Unwavering support. Beyond legal knowledge, your attorney will be your advocate, providing expert guidance and support during this stressful time.

Inexperienced lawyers, or no lawyer at all, means that you will not have a strong advocate who knows the system defending your rights and freedom. Don’t leave your fate to chance; contact our offices to discuss your case.

Contact Arechigo & Stokka for Expert Criminal Defense

If you are facing 5th-degree assault charges in St. Paul, don’t face this situation alone.

Our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys has a proven track record of successfully defending numerous clients against assault charges.

We deeply understand the local legal system and are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for every client we represent. Contact Arechigo & Stokka today for a free consultation. 

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.

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