What is Assault?
Assault is defined as the intention to cause 1) fear of harm or 2) actual harm to another person. The degree of the assault charge depends on the severity of the harm caused, the offender’s prior criminal record, and the identity of the victim of the assault:
1. Assault in the First degree is charged when the victim is caused great bodily harm, or use of force is used against a police officer or correctional employee;
2. Assault in the Second degree requires use of a dangerous weapon;
3. Assault in the Third degree causes “substantial bodily harm”;
4. Assault in the Fourth degree is charged when the victim is a police officer or emergency personnel;
5. Assault in the Fifth degree is usually a misdemeanor and is charged for low-level altercations.
These definitions are used to delineate between different levels of assault, and often the charges can be challenged by an attorney, especially when the state has charged based on the injuries of the victim. For example, ‘substantial bodily harm’ can be subjective.
Domestic Assault has the same general definition, except it is charged when the alleged victim of the assault is a member of the offender’s household, family, or with whom the offender has or has had a significant sexual relationship. Therefore, a person can be charged with domestic assault against a former spouse, an ex-lover, a current lover, a child, uncle, brother, aunt or mother.
Assault crimes are ENHANCEABLE:
Assault crimes, including and especially Domestic Assault, are considered “enhanceable” offenses. This means that every conviction for an assault or assault-related offense makes any future assault-related offense more serious with greater consequences. The look-back period is ten years. So someone convicted with a misdemeanor assault will face a gross misdemeanor if they are arrested for another assault-related offense, or potentially a felony if they have two prior qualifying offenses in the previous ten years.
What are Assault-related offenses that qualify as “enhanceable”?
In addition to straight assault or domestic assault charges, there are other offenses that can make charges more serious and qualify as “enhanceable” under the Minnesota state statutes:
Felony Threats of Violence
Violation of an Order for Protection (OFP) or Domestic Abuse No Contact Order (DANCO)
Criminal Sexual Conduct
Domestic Assault by Strangulation
Stalking/Pattern of Harassment
These are all crimes that involve threats, injury, intimidation or fear, and often with an intimate partner or family member.
Assault charges can ruin relationships and be very hard on families. Often these charges stem from misunderstandings, false accusations, or involve drugs or alcohol. Most of the time an assault charge is accompanied by a no contact order between the defendant and the alleged victim. This court ordered separation can put tremendous strain on a family, but there are ways to request that the court lift the no contact order so you can get back to normal.
Catherine is an experienced criminal defense lawyer that defends against charges of Assault. If you or a loved one have been accused of Assault, she can help. Call today for a free consultation.