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. Fifth-degree assault is the least serious charge, carrying the least severe penalties. Minnesota law also covers domestic assault – an assault that happens between members of a family or household.
What Are the Legal Ramifications of Assault?
Legal consequences of assault in Minnesota are some of the harshest across the U.S. They can range from a short prison sentence and small fine to up to two decades in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
Understanding Assault Charge Degrees
A first-degree assault charge applies when you assault or get accused of assaulting someone else and inflict great bodily harm. According to Minnesota law, “great bodily harm” is an injury likely to kill, cause severe permanent disfigurement, or cause long-term loss of function of any part or organ of the body.
You may also face a first-degree assault charge if police officers accuse you of using or trying to use deadly force against protected employees. Protected employees include prosecuting attorneys, correctional facility workers, and judges.
Minnesota law defines deadly force as any force with a potential to cause death or significant bodily injury. The prosecution team must prove that the force you used qualifies as deadly force to charge you with 1st-degree assault.
This felony charge applies to assault cases that involve a lethal weapon. Under state law, a lethal weapon is any device likely to cause death or substantial bodily injury. A firearm is deemed a lethal weapon even if it is unloaded. Even items like a small pocket knife can turn into a dangerous weapon if used in a way that could cause death or substantial bodily injury.
This charge covers assault that causes substantial bodily harm. An assault on a child also qualifies as a third-degree assault if the prosecutors prove that the same defendant has a history of abusing the same complainant.
Assaulting a child under 4 years and inflicting multiple bruises or injuring the child’s head, neck, or eyes is also a third-degree assault.
The prosecution can charge 4th-degree assault either as a gross misdemeanor or felony. Fourth-degree assault becomes a gross misdemeanor when someone assaults a public officer while performing his or her duties. Peace officers, reserve officers, school officials, transit operators, vulnerable adults, and utility and postal workers are some examples of public officers.
Fourth-degree assault advances to a felony level when someone causes substantial bodily injury or throws bodily fluids or feces to a public officer while performing his or her duties.
Fifth-Degree Assault (Simple Assault)
Minnesota law considers a 5th-degree assault, also called simple assault, a misdemeanor. It changes into a gross misdemeanor if the defendant has a previous domestic assault conviction within the past 10 years involving the same complainant.
A second domestic assault in three years automatically becomes a gross misdemeanor. A third domestic assault on the same complainant or in three years on any complainant is considered a felony.
Hiring a criminal defense attorney right after getting arrested or charged with assault can help you achieve a favorable outcome in your case. The attorney will investigate your case to identify opportunities for getting the charges dropped or pushing for a reduced sentence. The attorney can also discuss the difference between pleading no contest vs. guilty, particularly when negotiating a plea deal with the prosecutor.
When Is Assault Considered a Misdemeanor?
Assault is a misdemeanor when it involves a physical act that inflicts minor injuries on the complainant or threat of imminent bodily harm. Raising a fist and threatening to hit a person is a misdemeanor assault. A person may also face misdemeanor assault charges for pushing, slapping, or hitting another person with an object and inflicting bruises on that person.
Penalties for Assault
- A conviction of assault in the 1st degree carries up to a 20-year jail term, up to a $30,000 fine, or both.
- The penalty for 2nd -degree assault varies with the severity of the injuries inflicted on the complainant. An assault involving a dangerous weapon may result in up to a seven-year imprisonment, up to a $14,000 fine, or both. The jail term increases to 10 years and the fine to up to $20,000 if the perpetrator uses a dangerous weapon to cause significant bodily injury to the complainant.
- A 3rd-degree assault conviction carries up to a five-year prison term, up to $10,000 in fines, or both.
- A gross misdemeanor 4th-degree assault can lead to up to a one-year prison term, up to $3,000 in fines, or both. A felony fourth-degree assault, on the other hand, can result in up to a three-year prison term, up to $6,000 in fines, or both.
- A misdemeanor 5th-degree assault attracts up to a year in prison, up to a $3,000 fine, or both. A felony 5th-degree assault conviction, on the other hand, can result in up to a five-year jail term, up to $10,000 in fines, or both.
You need to know how to beat an assault charge and any other related offense to stand a better chance of avoiding these penalties, or at least reducing their severity.
What Are Minnesota’s Criminal Assault Statutes?
Minnesota’s criminal assault statutes define assault as a deliberate act that inflicts bodily harm to someone else or cause the fear of bodily injury. The statutes consider subjecting someone to fear of immediate bodily injury as an assault, even if the complainant does not suffer any physical injury. In other words, the prosecution team can charge you with assault even if there was no physical contact between you and the alleged victim.
Under the state law, an assault offense can be simple or aggravated. The severity of the alleged victim’s injuries and the alleged offender’s use of a dangerous weapon determines the category in which an assault offense lies.
Simple assault constitutes an intentional infliction of physical harm, an attempt to cause physical harm, or acts that subject another person to fear of physical harm. Aggravated assault covers the intent to inflict physical harm or even kill using a lethal weapon like a firearm, flammable substance, baseball bat, or motorbike.
What Are Your Rights if You Are Charged With Assault in Minnesota?
Right to Stay Silent
Under the Fifth Amendment, you can assert your right to remain silent when interrogated by the law enforcement officers during arrest or by the prosecution team during trial. This law protects you from disclosing self-implicating information.
Right to an Attorney
The Sixth Amendment offers you the right to sufficient representation from a competent attorney. The court will appoint a public defender (a government-paid attorney) if you cannot afford legal representation.
Right to a Fast Trial
You have the right to a quick trial. This law prevents your case from dragging on in court for years. You can, however, waive this right if your attorney requires more time to build a solid defense.
Right to be Tried by a Public Jury
The 6th Amendment offers you a right to a public jury trial, provided the possible penalty for your offense is more than six months in prison.
Right Not to Be Subjected to Double Jeopardy
The 5th Amendment protects you from getting tried twice for the same offense. Minnesota, for instance, cannot retry you with the same offense in an attempt to get a different outcome after your assault charges get dismissed.
Assault vs. Battery
The main difference between an assault and battery is that an assault does not necessarily require an actual physical contact between the alleged perpetrator and the victim, while battery does.
Both offenses are, however, prosecuted as misdemeanors and carry prison time and fines. They also become felonies if they involved lethal weapons or great bodily harm.
The Difference Between Self-Defense and Assault
Self-defense is a legal defense against an act of violence. An assault, on the other hand, is a criminal offense. You claim self-defense when charged with assault. Your attorney must justify using force with compelling evidence to convince the judge to issue the jury with a self-defense instruction. The self-defense argument applies to an assault case only if a judge provides the jury with a self-defense instruction.
What Is the True Cost of Assault in Minnesota?
The cost of assault in Minnesota can include career costs and criminal justice system costs. Career costs include productivity losses stemming from incarceration of offenders. Criminal Justice system costs are the expenses incurred in prosecuting criminal defendants, police protection, and corrections services, like imprisonment.