What Qualifies As “Domestic Assault” in Minnesota?

Sometimes, intense and negative emotions can get the best of us. When that happens during arguments or conflicts between spouses, intimate partners, or other family members, things can spiral out of control quickly. One person may make ill-advised statements or threats or engage in acts of physical violence. The other may make false allegations that they were the victims of an attack to get the upper hand in a divorce or custody dispute. Either way, if you find yourself arrested and charged with domestic assault in Minnesota, you need to call an experienced Minneapolis domestic violence attorney as soon as possible to keep matters from spiraling out of control even further.

That is because domestic violence is a serious problem, and Minnesota law, police, and prosecutors treat it accordingly. If police arrive at the scene of a domestic dispute, the odds are high that police will arrest at least one of the individuals involved and put them in the back of a squad car. Under Minnesota Statutes Section 629.341, police may arrest a person anywhere without a warrant, including at the person’s residence, if they have probable cause to believe the person committed nonfelony domestic abuse, including domestic assault as described below, within the preceding 72 hours. The arrest may be made even though the assault did not occur in the officer’s presence. And if your alleged actions violated the terms of a current order of protection, your arrest is mandatory.

That is just the beginning of a scary and potentially life-changing ordeal. If prosecutors charge and convict you of domestic assault, you could wind up behind bars, lose your right to carry a firearm, and have other rights limited. The stigma of domestic violence and the criminal record that comes with a conviction will burden you for years and decades to come, limiting future opportunities and doing irreparable damage to your reputation. If you are a parent, a domestic assault arrest and conviction can have a catastrophic effect on your custody rights and relationship with your children.

“Domestic Assault” Is One Of Many Criminal Acts of “Domestic Abuse”  

Domestic violence or abuse can take many forms, and under Minnesota law, “domestic assault” is one of them. Other domestic violence offenses include attempted strangulation, terroristic threats, criminal sexual assault, and stalking.

Minnesota Statutes Section 609.2242 defines the crime of domestic assault as doing either of the following to a “family or household member”: 

  • Committing an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon another.

A “family or household member” for purposes of a domestic assault charge includes:

  • spouses and former spouses
  • parents and children
  • persons related by blood
  • persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past
  • persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time
  • a man and woman if the woman is pregnant and the man is alleged to be the father, regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time; and
  • persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship.

Of course, certain acts which qualify as domestic assault, such as murder, rape, child abuse, and kidnapping, also constitute other criminal offenses and can be charged as such alongside domestic assault charges.

Understandably and correctly, most people believe that domestic violence involves an act of physical force or harm to the alleged victim. But, as the statute makes clear, even the threat of immediate harm can count as domestic assault. Raising a fist, wielding a knife, or pointing a gun can get you convicted of domestic assault even if the alleged victim was never touched or suffered no physical injuries. 

Charges and Penalties For Domestic Assault 

Unless they involve death or severe bodily harm, most first-time domestic assaults are charged as misdemeanors, with penalties of up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Domestic assault becomes a gross misdemeanor if the accused has a prior domestic violence-related conviction within the past ten years. A gross misdemeanor carries potential penalties of up to 364 days in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Prosecutors can charge domestic assault as a felony if the accused has two or more prior domestic violence convictions, causes substantial or great bodily harm to a victim, or uses a deadly weapon. Depending on the circumstance, a felony domestic assault conviction can result in a prison sentence of five to 20 years. 

Violating An Order of Protection Makes A Bad Situation Even Worse