Minnesota Assault Laws
At the outset, you should understand the differences between the general definitions of assault. Minnesota classifies two distinct types of acts that can trigger an assault charge. These are commonly known as assault-fear and assault-harm. Assault-fear is the act of putting someone in fear of an attack or non-consensual contact. It typically requires the state to prove that you did or said something that caused another to fear imminent bodily harm.
This can be very difficult for the state to prove. Circumstances such as the parties’ location – was it a face-to-face confrontation, or did it occur over the phone or social media – are critical factors.
It’s much more difficult for the state to prove up an assault charge if the parties were not face-to-face when the alleged incident occurred. Assault-harm involves making actual, physical contact. The contact must result in bodily harm or bodily injury.
Like many other crimes in Minnesota, there are varying degrees of assault depending on the surrounding circumstances. Specifically, Minnesota law defines Fifth Degree Assault as:
- Engaging in an act with the intent to cause someone else to fear imminent bodily harm or death; OR,
- Intentionally inflicting bodily harm, including an attempt to do so.
This lowest form of assault is a misdemeanor, so a conviction could lead to up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. From there, the penalties become more considerable according to the degree of assault.
Degrees of Assault Charges in Minnesota
Fourth Degree Assault
The defined act of assault is the same as Fifth Degree, but the crime is more serious when it’s against a public servant, such as a law enforcement officer, school officials, or medical staff. Fourth Degree Assault is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $3,000 fine.
Third Degree Assault
The crime becomes a felony if the assault leads to substantial bodily harm for the victim, such as a broken bone, head injury, or other wounds. A conviction could lead to a sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Second Degree Assault
This level of assault involves the use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, such as a knife, baseball bat, or motor vehicle. Any item capable of causing serious bodily harm or death could constitute a dangerous weapon. If convicted for Second Degree Assault, you could face up to 20 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
First Degree Assault
The most serious assault charge carries a potential prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine reaching $30,000. There are two circumstances under which you could be arrested for First Degree Assault:
- Where you cause “great” bodily harm to the victim, such as life-threatening injuries or a permanent disability; OR,
- You used deadly force against a police officer or employee at a correctional facility.
Based upon the serious nature of the charges and the potential sentences, retaining a Minnesota assault defense attorney is critical. A prosecutor has a heavy burden in trying to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. By attacking weaknesses in the allegations, especially a “he said-she said” situation, the prosecution may fail. Plus, there may be defenses available in your case, such as:
- Lack of intent to make contact;
- Self-defense or defense of others;
- Lack of knowledge, such as not knowing that a person was a police officer; and,
- Impossibility of imminent fear.
Steps to Take After Being Charged with Assault
Your first task after being arrested is to contact a lawyer for an assault charge, which is your right by law. Your attorney will assist with all other efforts as part of a comprehensive defense strategy. However, some additional tips on what to do after an arrest for assault include:
- Avoid Making Any Statements: You have the right to remain silent, so exercise it. You don’t have to answer questions or make any statements, even to express your innocence. Refuse to speak without having your lawyer present.
- Stay Away from Your Accuser: False or exaggerated allegations of assault are common in “heat of the moment” situations. If someone has accused you, avoid contact with that person and don’t try to apologize. You could face additional, more severe charges.
- Don’t Fall for Police Tricks: When you’re in custody, law enforcement may use interrogation tactics designed to get you to speak. They may promise leniency if you admit to assault charges or tell you they have witnesses or video evidence. Refer to tip #1 above and remain silent. Police don’t have the power to issue a lower sentence, and any evidence against you will come out in court anyway. Don’t fall for these tricks.
- Refuse a Search of Your Home or Business: If officers arrive at your home or business to arrest you for assault, step outside, close the door behind you, and don’t consent to a search. Once inside, the police may try to gather evidence. The only exception is where they have a warrant, in which case you must comply.
Schedule a Consultation with a Minnesota Assault Lawyer Today
Please contact Arechigo & Stokka, P.A. for additional details on assault charges and how to fight the allegations. You can set up a free appointment at our St. Paul, MN office by calling 651-222-6603 or filling out an online form. Our attorneys handle criminal cases throughout Minnesota and North Dakota, in state and federal courts. We’re prepared to pursue all available options to defend your interests.