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An Overview of the Degrees of Assault Charges in Minnesota

Under Minnesota law, an assault involves the intent to cause imminent fear of injury or intent to cause injury to another.  The act can be direct like punching someone or indirect like spiking someone’s drink with a drug. Minneapolis criminal lawyers at Gerald Miller, P.A. outline the different degrees of assault charges, as well as potential strategies our law firm might employ to defend against these types of charges.

What are the Different Degrees of Assault in Minnesota?

Understanding the different degrees of an assault charge is important. While every assault case should be treated seriously, some of these offenses carry significantly steeper maximum penalties than others.

1st Degree

The most serious form of the offense is 1st degree assault and is charged when either the accused causes great bodily harm to the complaining witness or assaults a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon.  A violation of this offense will lead to exposure to a sentence of up to 20 years in prison or a fine of up to $30,000.

2nd Degree

The accused can face this charge if they used a dangerous weapon during the commission of the offense.  The punishment for 2nd degree assault includes a maximum term of imprisonment of 7 years or a fine up to $14,000.  If the accused inflicts substantial bodily harm, the penalties increase to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000.

3rd Degree

This offense can be charged when inflicting substantial bodily harm or assault of a minor is involved.  The exposure for a conviction of this offense is up to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

4th Degree

An assault against a peace officer engaged in duties imposed by law, including executing a lawful arrest, constitutes a gross misdemeanor.  The offense carries a potential penalty of up to 12 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $3,000.

The offense becomes a felony when the victim suffers demonstrable bodily harm, which is punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a fine up to $6,000.  If an assault is committed against a fireman or other emergency medical responder during the performance of their duties, the offense is a felony, punishable by 3 years in prison and a fine up to $4,000.

If the act is motivated by prejudice based on sex, race, age, religion, color, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation, the accused can be charged with a 4th degree assault, punishable by 12 months incarceration and a fine up to $3,000.

5th Degree

This type of assault is sometimes called “simple assault”. It involves the commission of the offense with intent to cause fear or immediate bodily harm or intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm on another.  A violation of this grade constitutes a misdemeanor, which can result in up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.

How Do Assault and Battery Charges Differ in MN?

Criminal offenses can vary from one state to another. For that reason, many people use the terms “assault” and “battery” interchangeably while other believe they represent two very different criminal acts.

In many states, assault and battery are two very different crimes. In these jurisdictions, assault is treated as an attempt to cause harmful or offensive contact while battery is the act of making harmful contact with another person.

Minnesota does not recognize a crime of battery. Unlike these other states, Minnesota effective combines the acts that would qualify as either assault or battery into an assault offense.

This distinction is worth noting, but the conduct that would qualify as battery in another state could still lead to an assault charge in Minnesota. If convicted for assault, you could be dealing with consequences for the rest of your life. Let the attorneys of Gerald Miller help you fight back against these charges and pursue a fair resolution on your behalf.

What Are the Collateral Consequences of an Assault Conviction in MN?

There are consequences for an assault conviction that go above and beyond the jail time and fines that are mandated by statute. These consequences might not stem from state law directly, but the impact they could have on your life is significant.

The collateral consequences are especially steep for a felony conviction. A conviction could lead to some of your constitutional rights being limited. For example, felons lose their right to vote or own firearms.

Other collateral consequences can impact every degree of assault charge. The most common collateral consequence involves your ability to secure and maintain employment. Employers typically review the criminal records of anyone they interview. There is nothing that prevents an employer from firing or refusing to hire you due to your criminal record.

An assault conviction could also make it difficult for your to secure suitable housing. Just like with employers, your prospective landlord could also perform a background check and reject your application based on your criminal history.

Effect on a Professional License in Minneapolis and MN

If you have a professional license, an assault conviction could put that license in jeopardy. The severity of the offense could play a role in determining whether your license is at risk or not. For serious offenses including felony assault, the chances that you could face suspension or revocation are high. There are numerous professions that require licensing, including doctors, nurses, pilots, and lawyers.

The difficult aspect of collateral consequences is that they are outside the purview of the judge or prosecutor. When you negotiate a guilty plea in an assault case, the prosecution can recommend a reasonable sentence. However, there is no way for the prosecution to promise that the collateral consequences of an assault conviction will not come back to haunt you. For that reason, aggressively pursuing a dismissal or acquittal on your assault charge might be in your best interest. Allow the attorneys of Gerald Miller to review your case and assist you with developing a defense strategy.

What Are Some Assault Defense Strategies in Minnesota?

While our law firm will tailor our strategy to the specific facts of our client’s case, some common defenses are often asserted in assault cases.

Self-defense or defense of others can be an effective strategy, depending on the situation.  The accused does not deny that an assault occurred with either of these defenses.  Rather, the defendant contends the threatening acts justified the assault.  The defensive act must be reasonable under the circumstances.

We might contend that you had an alibi, so you could not have committed the assault.  We will also explore defenses like seeking the exclusion of illegally obtained statements and attacking the credibility of witnesses, including the alleged victim.

Sometimes the best defense to a criminal charge is highlighting the state’s lack of evidence. Remember: the prosecution holds the burden of proof in your case. That means they must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of assault. If they cannot do so, you are entitled to an acquittal.

The important thing is that you find a defense strategy that fits the facts of your case. No two assault cases are the same, and it can be challenging to identify the right strategy for you. Our firm could evaluate every aspect of your case and tailor a defense strategy to fit the facts.

Consult With a Assault Charges Lawyer in Minneapolis

If you or a loved one has been charged with assault in the Twin Cities or surrounding areas of Minnesota, we invite you to speak to an experienced criminal lawyer at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible.  The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start protecting your rights.

You have the right to select the defense counsel of your choice. Our firm is is prepared to help you improve your chances of a successful defense after an assault arrest. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.


Originally published April 21, 2017 and updated on October 13, 2021.

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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