What Is the Difference Between Aggravated and Simple Assault in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, simple assault is a misdemeanor offense while aggravated assault is a felony. The difference between the two charges depends on the severity of injuries to the victim and whether a deadly weapon was used during the crime.

What Is Assault?

Under Minnesota law, the definition of assault is committing an intentional act that causes physical harm to another person, or creating the fear of physical harm. The law recognizes that creating fear of imminent bodily harm in another person is a punishable act of assault, even if the victim is not physically harmed. No actual contact between the perpetrator and the victim is necessary to prove assault.

Assault is considered a crime of violence against another person. The law classifies assault cases into two categories – simple assault and aggravated assault. The difference between the two categories is based on a victim’s degree of injuries and a perpetrator’s use of a lethal weapon. Simple assault is a less serious offense classified as a misdemeanor, while aggravated assault is classified as a felony, a serious offense that carries harsher fines and penalties.

Simple Assault

Simple assault is defined as the act of intentionally inflicting bodily harm, attempting to inflict bodily harm, or acting in a way that causes fear of bodily harm to another person. Simple assault crimes may include: slapping, pushing, or shoving; raising a clenched fist; making verbal threats of injury; applying physical force; and hitting with an object that may inflict injury.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is defined as the intent to cause bodily harm with the use of a deadly weapon such as a knife, gun, baseball bat, motor vehicle, flammable substance, or any other object that could inflict severe injuries or death. Assault becomes a felony when significant bodily harm occurs. This includes a variety of injuries from lacerations to head trauma. Aggravated assault crimes include more serious offenses such as robbery, burglary, sexual assault, and rape. These crimes are felony offenses that carry severe penalties including up to 20 years in prison.

Minnesota Assault Charges

In Minnesota, there are numerous degrees of criminal assault ranging from first degree to fifth degree, based on physical injuries, severity of physical injuries, and the use of a lethal weapon while committing the crime. First degree offenses are the most serious, while fifth-degree offenses are the least serious.

First-Degree Assault

First-degree assault charges are the most serious. A first-degree assault is any act that causes great bodily harm to another person such as bodily disfigurement, loss of a limb, physical impairment, and increased risk of death. A first-degree assault conviction can result in fines up to $30,000 and prison time up to 20 years.

Second-Degree Assault

Second-degree assault charges usually involve a lethal weapon, whether the weapon is used or not. If no injuries occur, a second-degree assault conviction can result in fines up to $14,000 and up to 7 years in prison. If the use of the weapon results in substantial bodily harm, fines may be increased to $20,000 and prison time may be extended up to 10 years.

Third-Degree Assault

Third-degree assault charges include crimes against a minor (under 18 years old), or where a history of abuse against young children exists. When significant bodily harm occurs, a conviction can result in fines up to $10,000 and prison time up to 5 years.

Fourth-Degree Assault

Fourth-degree assault charges are misdemeanor charges. A conviction can result in fines up to $3,000 and up to 1 year in jail. If the charge is escalated to a felony, fines may be increased to $6,000 and jail time can be increased to a maximum of 3 years.

Fifth-Degree Assault

Fifth-degree assault charges are also misdemeanor charges. A conviction can result in up to $1,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail. It’s important to note that fifth-degree assault charges are the least serious, but actual physical assault is not required for guilt. The court considers an attempt to cause fear of bodily harm enough for a conviction.

Assault is a serious offense in Minnesota. An assault conviction, even for a fifth-degree misdemeanor, can have serious consequences on an offender’s future without a criminal defense assault attorney. In addition to steep fines and jail time, record of an assault conviction can impact a person’s housing choices, employment opportunities, financial status, abilities to get bank accounts and credit cards, and other lifestyle factors that most people take for granted. In Minnesota, employers have the legal right to terminate employees with assault convictions, whether they are misdemeanor or felony charges.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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