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Actual Physical Harm Needs To Be Proven To Be Convicted of Felony 4th Degree Assault of a Peace Officer

  1. In August 2012, Thomas Struzyk was charged with multiple crimes, including felony 4th degree assault of a peace officer, stemming from an incident where a police officer was attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Mr. Struzyk. The arrest warrant alleged that Mr. Struzyk had driven without proof of insurance. Mr. Struzyk’s mother let the officer into the house and the officer stood outside of Mr. Struzyk’s bedroom explaining the nature of his visit. Mr. Struzyk apparently resisted arrest and threatened the officer. The officer fired his Taser gun, the probes of which struck Mr. Struzyk in the chest and stomach. According to the officer, Mr. Struzyk then removed the Taser probes, lifted up his shirt, and touched a small, bloody chest wound with his finger. Mr. Struzyk smeared some of blood from his Taser gun injuries onto the officer’s uniform. At the time of the incident the officer was wearing a t-shirt and a bullet proof vest, and thus no blood touched his skin.

Assault of a Peace Officer

A jury found Mr. Struzyk guilty of 4th degree assault of a peace officer, and gross-misdemeanor obstruction of the legal process or arrest. Mr. Struzyk appealed his conviction asserting that the act of smearing the blood onto the officer, in itself, was not the crime of felony 4th degree assault of a peace officer. While at trial the jury had found that Mr. Struzyk intentionally smeared the blood, the jury should have also decided whether Mr. Struzyk had actually physically harmed the officer.

At the end of August 2015, the Minnesota Supreme Court rendered a decision on Mr. Struzyk’s appeal agreeing that the intentional act of transferring or throwing bodily fluids at or on an officer alone was not a physical assault that constituted felony 4th degree assault of a police officer.

Attempting to Make a Legal Arrest

Minnesota law provides that if a person physically attacks or assaults a police officer when the officer is trying to make a legal arrest or perform any other responsibility required by law, then that person may be convicted of a gross misdemeanor. Penalties include jail time and a large monetary fine. If the assault inflicts obvious physical harm or if the person purposely throws or otherwise puts bodily fluids or feces on the officer, then the crime is considered a felony. Jail time and fines are more severe for this offense.

Minnesota Supreme Court Ruling

In Mr. Struzyk’s case, the Minnesota Supreme Court interpreted this law to mean that proof that a person intentionally transfers or throws their bodily fluids or feces onto an officer, without proof of an actual physical assault that causes bodily harm, does not satisfy the elements of the crime of felony 4th degree assault of a peace officer. The Court reasoned that while the act of throwing or transferring bodily fluids can be a physical assault if it actually causes harm, the mere potential for bodily harm through the transfer of bodily fluids or feces does not satisfy the legal standard for bodily harm. Moreover, while the threshold for what constituted bodily harm was minimal, the legal standard required proof of actual pain or discomfort.

If you have been arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer, contact an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense attorney at Gerald Miller, P.A. right away. A conviction of misdemeanor, gr or felony assault can result in large fines, jail time, and can even affect your ability to get and retain a job. Contact one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.

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