Domestic Violence: When Victims Strike Back

In many cases, victims of domestic violence will attempt to defend themselves or their children from abusers by committing a violent act against the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the abusers sometimes try to turn things around and convince police that the real victim is actually the aggressor. These actions often result in battered victims being charged with domestic violence or assault themselves. It’s a cruel twist for victims who simply try to defend themselves. Domestic violence is a serious crime and a such a conviction can lead to significant fines, jail or prison time, and a criminal record that can haunt offenders for years to come.

When is Self Defense Justified in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, when a victim is not the original aggressor, reasonably perceives an imminent threat, and his or her actions are proportionate to the situation, acts of self-defense may be justified in court. Unfortunately, inadequate investigation of the crime scene, complicated circumstances and histories can sometimes make it difficult for a victim and his or her criminal defense lawyer to prove that the violent acts were in fact, defensive and not offensive. To make matters worse, many types of abuse like emotional attacks, violent threats, and isolation, can lead to a victim’s fear and acts of self-defense but are not visually evident. Therefore, it is vital that investigating officers are familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence.

Determining the Predominant Aggressor

To help prevent the abuser from manipulating the system and turning the tables on the real victim in domestic violence cases, a variety of factors must be considered.

  • Any history or previous convictions of violence or threats of violence
  • Orders for protection that have been filed
  • The identification of both defensive and offensive injuries
  • Witness statements and how they support other evidence in the case
  • The demeanor of each party

When the predominant aggressor is misidentified, the victim could face serious, life-changing consequences. In addition to substantial fines and jail time, his or her child custody or parenting time rights, housing, employment, and even immigration rights could all be at stake.

More than one million women and thousands of men are victims of domestic violence committed by an intimate partner every year. Sadly, when many of these victims strike back, they suddenly become victims of the legal system as well.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-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. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

People facing criminal charges in Minnesota often ask, “Can you defend yourself in court?” You can represent yourself in court when charged with a crime. Self-representation, however, is not typically in the accused's best interests, even if courts allow it.
Parents whose children have been arrested or accused of committing a heinous crime might wonder, “Can a minor be charged with a felony?” A minor aged 14 years or older but below 18 years may face felony charges in Minnesota.
People accused of or under investigation for assault might ask, “What are the charges for assault?” Minnesota has five levels of assault charges. First-degree assault is the most serious offense, and a conviction often results in the most severe penalties, like long prison time and hefty fines.