Disagreements between family members can happen at times. However, if these arguments become physical, harmful or life-threatening, they may result in serious legal repercussions. According to the State laws of Minnesota, individuals involved in aggravated domestic disputes may have to face domestic assault charges with tough consequences.
Domestic assault in Minnesota is considered a serious offense because victims are subjected to prolonged psychological trauma due to the violence. Law enforcement officers have the right to arrest any individual who they believe has committed any kind of domestic violence.
Having said that, let’s understand more about domestic assault charges in Minnesota.
How Is Domestic Assault Defined in Minnesota?
The Statues of Minnesota define domestic assault as an act that inflicts bodily harm/death or attempts to intentionally inflict bodily harm/death against a family member. A simple domestic assault without serious/life-threatening consequences is considered a misdemeanor. However, a domestic assault that involves strangulation is considered a felony.
Domestic assault doesn’t always involve actual injury. Causing the fear of harm is enough for a domestic assault conviction in Minnesota. The state considers it domestic assault if you raise a fist or point a gun at a family member, especially if the victim fears you will follow through.
Note that the law requires the assault to be intentional. Intentional means that the assailant purposefully inflicted bodily harm on a family member. Or it means the assailant attempted to impose physical harm/death on a family member.
Also, the law defines a family/household member as any one of the following:
- Spouse, former spouse, parents, and children
- People related by blood
- People living together or who have lived together in the past
- Couples having a child in common regardless of their marital status or history of living together
- Couples involved in a significant sexual relationship
It’s important to distinguish between assaults involving a family or household member and common assault. More on the difference between the two next.
Assault vs. Domestic Assault
Minnesota assault and domestic assault charges have many similarities. They both involve bodily harm or threat of harm to another person. Assault and domestic assault convictions even incur some of the same penalties.
However, Minnesota courts have more sentencing options for domestic assault. Prosecutors often seek more severe penalties in domestic assault cases.
For example, domestic assault convictions almost always have mandatory minimum prison sentences. Regular assault convictions never come with minimum sentencing requirements.
But when the assailant used a firearm or assaulted an officer of the law, Minnesota can apply a minimum prison sentence. When this happens, it’s critical to hire a domestic violence defense attorney.
What Are Qualified Domestic Violence Offenses in Minnesota?
The State laws of Minnesota consider the following as domestic violence offenses:
- Violation of a domestic abuse Order for protection (OFP)
- Violation of a domestic abuse no-contact order
- First and second degree murder
- First through fifth degree assault
- Domestic assault and domestic assault by strangulation
- First through fourth degree criminal sexual misconduct
- Malicious punishment of a child
- Terroristic threats
- Harassment, violation of a harassment restraining order, and stalking
- Interference with an emergency call
Minnesota may charge the perpetrator of domestic assault with a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. The exact charge depends on whether the offender has priors. Two domestic assault convictions within a certain period can earn a felony.
Domestic assault may also be a felony if the offense involved substantial bodily harm (SBH), great bodily harm (GBH), or death.
SBH is an injury resulting in temporary but substantial disfigurement. Other types of SBH injuries include those causing temporary loss or impairment of a body part and/or fracture.
GBH includes injuries presenting a high probability of death. Also, assaults cause GBH when they result in permanent disfigurement, permanent impairment of a body part, or fracture.
Orders for Protection and No-Contact Orders
Minnesota courts commonly issue OFPs and no-contact orders in domestic assault cases. These orders mandate that the assailant avoid contact with his or her victim. Courts issue them with the intent of protecting the victim from further harm.
Protective orders tend to last one year, while no-contact orders last an average of five years. Another difference between these two orders? Civil courts issue OFPs while criminal courts cite no-contact orders.
However, violating both no-contact orders and OFPs can bring about criminal penalties. A domestic assault defense attorney can help you negotiate lower punishments for court order violations.
What Are the Penalties for Domestic Assault in Minnesota?
A person convicted for domestic assault may have to face consequences beyond the typical penalties of an assault. They are as follows:
- Charges of Misdemeanor or Felony
When a domestic assault is considered a misdemeanor, penalties may include up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. In case of a felony, domestic assault may include one to three years of jail term and/or fines of up to $5000.
The above-mentioned penalties are levied on first-time offenders. If the offender has sustained more than one domestic-violence-related conviction within the last 10 years, he/she may be charged with a gross misdemeanor. Also, if the offender has two other qualified convictions within the last 10 years of a third offense, he/she may be charged with a felony.
Furthermore, for a second-time offense, the penalty includes one year of jail term and/or fines of up to $3000. The third and subsequent offenses will include a jail term of up to five years and/or fines up to $10,000.
The mandatory minimum sentence is 20 days for repeat gross misdemeanor domestic assault. The mandatory minimum increases to at least 45 days in prison for repeat felony domestic assault.
Suppose the victim of domestic assault dies as a result of the attack. A Minnesota court could then charge the assailant with first- or second-degree murder.
Murder convictions can potentially earn the defendant up to life in prison. For example, domestic assaults resulting in first-degree murder have mandatory minimum sentences. First-degree murderers must serve at least a lifetime in prison.
Some domestic assault-related second-degree murder charges also bring about the maximum sentence. This can happen if the offender committed a “heinous crime” within the last 15 years.
Minnesota defines a “heinous crime” as attempted or convicted first-, second-, or third-degree murder. Heinous crimes also include first-degree assault and first- through third-degree violent sexual conduct.
- Protection Orders
Protection orders are also associated with penalties of domestic assault. Violating them may result in additional penalties. An individual can request a protection order or no-contact order at any point in time. However, these orders are necessarily issued upon a domestic assault arrest or conviction.
The court will order a domestic abuse no-contact order (DANCO) or an order for protection (OFP). The order may take up to 14 days from the date of issue to come into effect. The court decides if a permanent order is required depending on the severity of the case details. If granted, these orders may be valid for up to two years and can be renewed thereafter.
A protection order is used to prohibit the offender from:
- Committing domestic abuse against a family member, the petitioner, or pets
- Staying/using the victim’s house, workplace, and common surrounding areas
- Contacting the petitioner/victim
In some cases, protection orders may also require the offender to provide the following:
- Pay for child or spousal support
- Forgo child custody and visitation rights
- Give up custody of pets
- Provide uninterrupted insurance coverage for the petitioner
- Pay restitution
- Attend marriage counseling/mental health treatment
The violation of a protection order is considered a misdemeanor. The penalties for this offense may include a jail term of up to 90 days and fines of up to $1000. Bonds may also be imposed at $10,000 upon the defendant’s arrest. The severity of penalties may increase if the accused violates the protection order within 10 years of being convicted for domestic violence.
Violating a gross misdemeanor-level DANCO or OFP comes with a penalty of at least ten days in jail. If an assailant violates a felony-level DANCO or OFP, he or she must spend a minimum of 30 days in jail.
OFP and DANCO violators face minimum mandatory jail sentences. If the OFP violation is a misdemeanor, the mandatory minimum is at least three days in jail.
Violating a court order within 10 years of a domestic violence conviction triggers a gross misdemeanor charge. The minimum mandatory jail sentence is at least ten days for these violations.
Assailants who violate their OFP or DANCO while in possession of a dangerous weapon incur felony charges. The same is true of domestic assault committed within 10 years of the first of two domestic violence convictions. These felony-level violations have mandatory minimum sentences of 30 days in jail.
- Loss of Gun Rights
According to the laws of Minnesota, the person who has been convicted for domestic violence may lose the right to have a gun. If a weapon was used during the domestic assault, it is compulsorily forfeited. However, owning a gun even after seizing the rights to own one will result in severe penalties that include a jail term of up to one year and fines of up to $3000.
Dangerous weapons crimes also come with minimum mandatory sentences in Minnesota. This is especially true for convicted felons and offenders with weapons-related court orders. For these people, mere possession of a firearm can automatically mean five years in jail.
How Are Offenders Arrested in Issues of a Domestic Assault?
The laws of Minnesota allow peace officers to arrest the accused without a warrant at any place, including his/her residence.
This can be done if the officer believes that the person accused has committed a domestic assault in the last 24 hours. It is not necessary that the officer witnesses the assault for the arrest to be made.
Furthermore, the officer can proceed with a warrantless arrest if he/she believes that an assault, violation of a domestic assault no-contact order or violation of an OFP has occurred.
How Courts Set Bail for Domestic Assault Cases
During the domestic assault arraignment, a judge will set a bail amount. The amount set will depend on whether the court thinks the assailant still poses a threat to his or her victim.
Additionally, Minnesota courts often set conditions for bail. These conditions may include no-contact orders or OFPs. Part of an OFP or no-contact order could include forbidding the assailant from re-entering the family home.
A domestic assault lawyer can negotiate the lowest bail amount possible and help you understand the terms of your court order(s).
When Should You Contact a Domestic Assault Lawyer for Legal Help?
A domestic assault charge can negatively impact the offender’s professional life, personal reputation, finances, and living conditions. It is best to get help from a domestic assault lawyer to fight these charges because they may be able to help you in the following ways:
- Analyze and review the domestic assault charges imposed
- Clarify doubts and explain available legal options to drop/minimize the charges
- Evaluate the charges thoroughly and identify/secure any possible evidence that may help
- Build an effective defense strategy
It is important to understand that every case is different as they involve several different details. Though a domestic assault lawyer will offer the best representation possible and try to get the charges dropped, the final outcome depends on the severity of the case and the evidence presented to the jury. Based on these aspects, your lawyer will try his/her best for the best result, including a reduced penalty and fines.
Contact a Domestic Assault Lawyer
It is necessary that you protect your rights if you have been charged with domestic violence. Seeking legal help can minimize penalties to a great extent.
The experienced lawyers at Carlson & Jones P.A. will plan and present your case facts in the most favorable manner to obtain positive results. To learn more about the various aspects of domestic assault, the associated penalties, and the potential defenses, connect with us at (855) 976-2444 or contact us online.
This article was originally published on July 11, 2020 and updated on August 3, 2021.