A Hutchinson Criminal Lawyer Explains the Five Types of MN Assault Cases

Most assault cases occur when the temperature is between 80 and about 90 degrees. That sounds like a Minnesota summer to me. Heat increases testosterone production, which increases aggression. When the temperature gets much higher than 90, people stay inside, so the assault rate goes down.

In all these cases, the prosecutor must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Lack of evidence is usually one of the best defenses a Hutchinson criminal lawyer can use. However, sometimes it’s better to settle these cases out of court. Trails are very risky affairs, even if the prosecutor’s evidence is not very good.

Child Abuse

Pretty much all child abuse and neglect issues are very subjective. For example, assume Cindy’s dad consistently lets her stay up late. So, she often falls asleep in school. In some contexts, especially a family law proceeding, Dad’s actions could be considered child endangerment.

That subjectivity extends to Minnesota Statute Section 609.377, which is the state’s main child abuse law. It applies if a parent, guardian, or legal caretaker:

  • Uses cruel discipline or unreasonable force
  • Which is excessive given all the circumstances.

That subjective definition could include just about anything. Corporal punishment is a good example, and as a Hutchinson criminal lawyer as well as a parent, I address this issue a lot. Some parents consider paddling or spanking cruel and excessive; other parents have no problem with it at all.

The alleged infraction, child’s age, and amount of force often control the outcome. There’s a difference between spanking Ben because he ran out into the street and spanking him because he forgot to wash behind his ears. Ben’s age makes a difference as well. A ten-year-old is usually held to a higher standard than a four-year-old. Finally, the number of force matters. Did Ben’s dad leave a red mark or cause a deep bruise?

If all three of these areas favor the defendant, it’s nearly impossible to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In borderline cases, Hutchinson criminal lawyers often try to plead these cases down to reckless conduct or another lesser-included offense.

Simple Assault

Fifth-degree assault is the most commonly-charged assault case in McLeod County. First time assault is a misdemeanor, subsequent assault is usually a gross misdemeanor, and subsequent assault against the same alleged victim is usually a felony. The elements are:

  • Committing an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • Intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon another.

Note that injury, no matter how slight, is not an element of this offense. Note also that physical contact, no matter how slight, is not an element either. Hutchinson criminal lawyers have an easier time defending non-injury and/or non-contact cases. But prosecutors can and do still obtain convictions in these instances.

Assault and a few other cases, like theft, require lay witness testimony from an alleged victim. Unlike police officers, assault victims are not professional witnesses. Also unlike police officers, alleged victims are not always cooperative. In other cases, alleged victims relocate beyond the court’s jurisdiction, and prosecutors cannot subpoena or locate them.

Some states have lesser assault statutes which are essentially like traffic tickets. Minnesota really has no such law, so a Hutchinson criminal lawyer’s plea bargaining options are a little more limited. However, the aforementioned reckless conduct charge may be available if the prosecutor’s evidence is quite weak.

Domestic Assault

Facially, this charge is pretty much the same as fifth-degree assault. However, domestic violence assault has a number of collateral consequences. For example, persons with domestic assault convictions have a very hard time getting a fair shake in family court, even if the incident occurred years ago and involved a different family. Additionally, many domestic violence victims obtain restraining orders, and these proceedings are quite complex.

An alleged victim cannot “drop” the charges under any circumstances. A person can say s/he does not want to pursue charges, but the prosecutor has the final call. If the prosecutor wants to go forward, the judge could issue a subpoena and force the victim to testify.

The domestic assault law only applies in certain situations, and some of them are very difficult to prove. The protected categories are:

  • Persons related by blood or marriage,
  • Current or former roommates, and
  • People who are involved in a significant romantic relationship.

Common-law marriage usually does not count. Furthermore, a single one night stand does not mean that two people are roommates or involved in a significant romantic relationship.

Especially if the victim is uncooperative, prosecutors are often willing to reduce charges to simple assault. That conviction does not have nearly as many collateral consequences. However, many prosecutors do not reduce charges under any circumstances. They’d rather die with their boots on.

Aggravated Assault

Second-degree assault is also known as assault with a weapon or assault with a deadly weapon. The elements are:

  • Dangerous Weapon: Under Minnesota law, pretty much anything other than a hand is a dangerous weapon. Increasingly, Hutchinson criminal lawyers see cases in which the hand is a dangerous weapon. That’s true in some really bad medical malpractice cases.
  • Substantial Bodily Harm: Essentially, SBH means that you put someone in the hospital and keep them there for at least a day.

607.222 is not quite as serious if only one of the aggravating factors (dangerous weapon or SBH) is present. Again, some prosecutors will plead down aggravated assault cases to simple assault.

Vehicular Assault

Prosecutors can press these charges if the defendant was grossly negligent and caused SBH, or if the defendant was negligent while under the influence of alcohol or another substance and caused SBH.

These cases are sometimes difficult to prove. A witness must place the defendant behind the wheel at the time of the crash. By the time emergency responders arrive, the defendant has usually exited the vehicle. But all bets are off if the defendant admitted driving the car. These statements are usually admissible.

Work with an Experienced Attorney

All five types of assault cases have some valid defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

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