Domestic violence is not a single criminal charge. It is a classification that covers assault charges that involve two people between whom there is a relationship. Minnesota law includes the following relationships in its definition of domestic violence:
- spouses and former spouses
- parents and children
- blood relatives
- persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past
- persons who have a child in common (or a couple that is expecting a child), regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time
- persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship
The Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act defines domestic abuse as follows:
- physical harm, bodily injury, or assault
- the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault
- terroristic threats
- criminal sexual conduct
- interference with an emergency call
These offenses can be misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances of the incident. It is important to note that the difference between a misdemeanor and felony conviction on your record can have a significant impact on the course of your life for years to come, making it absolutely essential to work with an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer.
There are also certain consequences to any domestic violence conviction, regardless of how it is classified. State and federal law define domestic violence differently, meaning that it is possible to face federal consequences for a state charge, even if it is a misdemeanor without a domestic violence designation.
Examples of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Charges
There are a number of common misdemeanor charges that are associated with minor domestic disputes. The Minnesota Domestic Violence Act covers simple assault (which does involve weapons or the infliction of substantial bodily harm). There are, however, other misdemeanor charges associated with domestic disputes not covered by this act, such as disorderly conduct or public intoxication violations. Though these charges may not be domestic violence offenses under state law, they can still be designated as domestic violence under federal law.
Examples of Felony Domestic Violence Charges
Some minor offenses listed under the Minnesota Domestic Violence Act can become felonies, depending on the circumstances of the incident. For example, a misdemeanor assault can become a felony if the defendant uses a dangerous weapon or inflicts substantial bodily injury. Other offenses listed in the act (including almost all sexual crimes) are always felonies. It is important to consult with your lawyer about any felony charges, especially when they are designated as domestic violence. Domestic violence convictions carry more substantial consequences.
The Consequences of a Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Conviction
Some defendants think that a misdemeanor conviction will not affect their life very much. If your employment is not affected by a misdemeanor on your criminal record, you might think that you are in the clear. Misdemeanors, however, can carry specific consequences when they are domestic violence offenses. If you have children, a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction can be used against you in a custody battle, which can have a serious negative impact on your case.
Many defendants are not aware that the Brady Bill applies to all domestic violence convictions, misdemeanors and felonies alike. Individuals convicted of a domestic violence offense are deprived of the right to own firearms for the rest of their lives. This right cannot be reinstated. Even if your conviction is not designated as domestic violence under Minnesota state law, it could still trigger the permanent provisions of the Brady Bill as a federal charge.
The Consequences of a Felony Domestic Violence Conviction
Felony convictions carry a separate set of legal consequences. Felons are deprived of certain civil rights, including the right to vote, the right to sit on a jury, and the right to own guns. In some cases, these rights can be restored. Even if your civil rights are restored, you are still prevented from owning firearms by the Brady Bill.
Felonies also make it very difficult to secure employment. Most employers ask about your criminal record on job applications. Unless you have officially had your conviction sealed or expunged (which is difficult to do), you must report your conviction on the application. An attorney might be able to help you avoid this scenario by negotiating a fair plea deal. Some jobs, especially those involving children or families, could be especially strict in these areas.
A felony can also prohibit you from getting professional licensure, limiting the number of professions available to you. The state must license doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, contractors, accountants, and many other professionals. Some of these professional boards will refuse to issue licenses to persons with felony convictions. Others may be willing to hear the circumstances of the case. In either event, it is entirely up to the licensing entity whether or not you can be issued a license. You can improve your chances of qualifying for licensure by hiring an attorney to handle your case as soon as you are arrested. The earlier an attorney is involved, the better options will be available to you for mitigating the consequences of a criminal conviction.
The Right Domestic Violence Defense Attorneys for Minnesota Cases
The consequences of any domestic violence conviction can be serious and can follow you for years to come, even for the rest of your life. You don’t have to fight alone. Call us at (612) 440-4608 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney.