A hairy man's hand holding a woman hand for rape and sexual abuse concept. Concept of how to beat an assault charge

How to Beat an Assault Charge

Knowing how to beat an assault charge in Minneapolis, MN, can help you avoid a conviction and other consequences that come with it. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is your best bet at emerging victorious when facing an assault charge. The attorney will help you understand the law and your rights and build a strong defense on your behalf. The most common assault charge defenses include self-defense, defense of others, provocation, lack of intent, mental illness, and consent.

A hairy man's hand holding a woman hand for rape and sexual abuse concept. Concept of how to beat an assault charge

Assault Charge Defenses

A legal defense is a set of arguments that a defendant can use to challenge the prosecution’s case and try to get a not-guilty verdict. The most common assault charge defenses include:

Disputative Defenses

Disputative defenses are a type of legal defense that challenges the prosecution’s version of events. They argue that the prosecution has not yet met its burden of proof, or that the defendant is not guilty of the crime as charged.

While disputative defenses can effectively challenge the prosecution’s case, the burden of proof in a criminal case still lies on the prosecution. As such, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Some common disputative defenses in assault cases include:

Mistaken Identity

The mistaken identity defense argues that the defendant was not the person who committed the assault but was mistaken for someone else. It can happen if the defendant and the actual assailant look similar.

A Minnesota court may consider certain factors when evaluating a mistaken identity defense. These factors include the accuracy of the victim’s identification, the circumstances of the crime, and the physical similarities between you and the alleged perpetrator. It will also consider your alibi and any other evidence supporting your claim of mistaken identity.


The alibi defense argues that the defendant was not at the crime scene at the time of the assault. Your lawyer can support this defense with witnesses who can testify that they saw you elsewhere when the assault happened. Physical evidence, such as receipts or timesheets, can also help corroborate your alibi.

An alibi defense is not always successful. The prosecution may be able to challenge the evidence that you provide.

Accuser’s Credibility

This defense involves your attorney questioning the credibility of the alleged victim and the victim’s testimony. The attorney can, for instance, point out inconsistencies in the victim’s story or attack his or her character.

The burden of proving that the victim is not credible lies on your legal team. So, the evidence of the victim’s lack of credibility must be clear and convincing. Your legal team must also be consistent with your other statements and evidence.

Affirmative Defenses

An affirmative defense is a legal defense acknowledging that the defendant committed the act in question, but argues that the act was not a crime. In other words, affirmative defenses are not denials of guilt, but are arguments that the defendant’s actions were justified or excused, even though they technically violated the law. Consent and self-defense are two common examples of affirmative defenses.


This defense involves your lawyer arguing that you acted in self-defense when you assaulted the victim. To prove self-defense, you must show that you had justified reasons to believe the victim would harm you and that your actions were necessary to defend yourself. You can also use this defense if you committed the alleged offense in defense of property or another person.

If you were defending your property from the victim, you may not be guilty of assault. You may use this defense in cases where someone breaks into your home, and you defend yourself.


Consent applies to assault charges if both parties agree to the action. But it can be hard to prove, as it requires evidence that the victim consented to the action.

One way to establish consent in an assault case is through direct evidence, such as a written or verbal agreement between the defendant and the victim. Another way is through circumstantial evidence, such as the victim’s behavior or the circumstances of the assault.

Degrees of Assault in Minnesota

Assault is a crime in Minnesota defined as “intentionally causing or trying to cause bodily harm to another.” As such, the severity of the assault charge depends on the level of harm caused to the victim.

Minnesota has five assault charge levels, each with its penalties. The severity of the assault, the injuries inflicted, and the defendant’s intent determine the degrees of assault.

These are just the basic definitions of the degrees of assault in Minnesota. The specific penalties may vary with the circumstances of the case.

1st Degree Assault

1st degree assault is the most serious degree of assault and is punishable by up to a 20-year prison term and up to a $30,000 fine. It occurs when the defendant causes great bodily harm to the victim or commits the assault with a dangerous weapon (aggravated assault).

2nd Degree Assault

2nd degree assault is punishable by up to 7 years in prison and a $14,000 fine. A person can commit this offense when he or she causes substantial bodily harm to the alleged victim. This offense can also happen against a peace officer or firefighter with a dangerous weapon.

3rd Degree Assault

3rd degree assault attracts up to a five-year prison term, up to $10,000 in fines, or both. You may face 3rd degree assault charges when you cause bodily harm to the victim. The charge may also come from an assault committed against a minor under 16.

4th Degree Assault

Minnesota deems a fourth-degree assault a gross misdemeanor. This offense attracts up to 12 months in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. It’s committed when the defendant assaults another person or when the assault is committed against a peace officer or firefighter without a dangerous weapon.

5th degree Assault

5th degree assault qualifies as a misdemeanor and attracts up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. You may face this charge when you commit an act intending to cause fear in another person. The charge may also result from an assault committed against a person with a disability.

Protected Employee Assault

In Minnesota, assault of a protected employee is an offense punishable by up to 5 years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, or both. A protected employee is someone who is employed by a public or private employer and who is engaged in the performance of his or her duties.

Protected employees in Minnesota may include public employees, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers, or private employees, such as security guards, nurses, and retail workers. Volunteers, such as those who work at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, also qualify as protected employees.

Minnesota laws require a protected employee who has been assaulted to report the assault to his or her employer and the police. The employee should also seek medical attention immediately after the accident.

The crime of assault on a protected employee is committed when the defendant intentionally causes or attempts to cause bodily harm to a protected employee. It can also happen when the defendant intentionally causes or attempts to cause fear in a protected employee by placing him or her in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.

The crime is enhanced if the defendant is armed with a dangerous weapon or if the assault is committed against a peace officer or firefighter. Defenses that may be available to a person charged with assault of a protected employee include self-defense, defense of others, mistake of fact, and involuntary intoxication.

Hate Crime Assault

Hate crime assaults are more severely punished in Minnesota than other assaults. If you assault someone because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected characteristic, you could get charged with a gross misdemeanor, which carries up to a one-year prison time and up to $3,000 in fines. If you get convicted of two or more hate crime assaults within five years, the charge becomes a felony, punishable by up to one year plus one day in prison and a $3,000 fine.

Inmate Assault

If an inmate commits an assault while in prison, he or she will not begin serving his or her punishment for the assault until the initial sentence is complete. But, it is possible to have charges or penalties reduced. In some cases, an experienced defense attorney can have charges dismissed.

Domestic Assault

In Minnesota, domestic assault is the intentional infliction of or attempt to cause bodily harm to a family or household member. It may include physical violence, emotional abuse, or threats of violence.

Domestic assault is a serious crime, and the penalties for a conviction can be severe. In Minnesota, domestic assault can be a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the offense. Misdemeanor domestic assault attracts up to 90 days in jail or up to a $1,000 fine, or both. Gross misdemeanor domestic assault carries up to 12 months in prison, or a $3,000 fine, or both.

What to Do if You Are Charged With Assault

Having an assault charge can be a daunting experience, but you have rights. The penalties of an assault conviction, such as jail time and an impact on your professional license, can be severe. Take the following steps to stand a better chance of beating an assault charge in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Do Not Speak With the Police Without an Attorney Present

Anything you say to the police can and will be used against you in court. So, have an attorney present to protect your rights and ensure you do not make any statements that could jeopardize your case.

You have the constitutional right to remain silent. So, do not be under any pressure to give statements to the police, even if you know you are innocent.

Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

An experienced attorney is familiar with assault law and the local court system. He or she can build a strong defense on your behalf and protect your rights. The attorney can leverage his or her relationships with the judge and prosecutor to negotiate a favorable deal on your behalf.

Gather Evidence

Gather evidence that could help your case, such as eyewitness statements, photographs, or medical records, and give it to your attorney. Evidence is important in any criminal case, especially in assault cases. Assault cases often come down to a “he said, she said” situation, where the only evidence is the testimony of the victim or complaining witnesses and the defendant.

Cooperate With the Investigators

Cooperating with the investigation does not mean that you have to confess to anything. But you should cooperate with the investigation as much as possible. It will show the court that you are not trying to hide anything.

Cooperate with an assault investigation to help bring the perpetrator to justice if you think someone else was responsible for the crime you are accused of committing. Do this by providing the police with the information they need to identify and arrest the perpetrator. During your cooperation, direct all contact and information to your defense attorney to protect your rights.

Be Prepared for Trial

Prepare to testify in your defense if your case goes to trial. Also, be prepared to answer questions from the prosecution. Preparing for trial on an assault charge can be a daunting task.

The process involves reviewing the prosecution’s case. The prosecution will try to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by submitting evidence that shows that you committed the assault. Review the prosecution’s case carefully and identify any weaknesses.

Understand the court process by knowing what to expect. Do not shy from seeking clarification from your attorney anytime you encounter a confusing legal issue. 

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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