What Is Domestic Assault?
Domestic assault in Minnesota is an assault charge that falls under the larger umbrella of domestic violence. Domestic violence convictions carry a wide range of collateral consequences under both state and federal law. It is essential to understand these consequences so you can decide whether or not to accept a plea deal that will result in a domestic violence conviction on your criminal record. You should also consult with a defense lawyer as soon as you become aware of a criminal investigation against you. An experienced lawyer will protect your constitutional rights throughout the investigation and court case process, developing the right strategy to achieve the best possible resolution of the domestic violence charges against you with the minimum number of collateral consequences.
How Minnesota Law Defines a Domestic Assault
Per Section 609.2242 of the Minnesota Statutes, domestic assault qualifies as:
- An act committed with the intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death.
- Inflicting harm upon another.
- Attempting to inflict harm upon another
To qualify as a domestic assault, the victim must be a family or household member of the defendant. This can include a spouse, domestic partner, child, ex, parent, or sibling, just to name a few.
In Minnesota, a domestic charge is classified based upon a defendant’s prior record. If the defendant has no prior domestic violence convictions, the assault charge is a misdemeanor. If the defendant has one prior conviction for a domestic violence offense in the past ten years, even if they were considered a juvenile at the time, the crime becomes a gross misdemeanor and is subject to a harsher sentence. If the defendant has two or more domestic violence convictions in the past ten years, the domestic assault becomes a felony charge. A defendant charged with a felony can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison, a fine of $10,000, or both.
The Collateral Consequences of a Domestic Assault Conviction
A domestic assault conviction can have an adverse effect on your personal life.
Restrictions on Your Gun Rights
Both state and federal law laws restrict gun ownership rights for anyone convicted of domestic assault. Section 609.2242 allows judges to order the forfeiture of any firearm used in the commission of a domestic assault. The judge can then prohibit the defendant from owning any firearm for a minimum of three years to a maximum of a lifetime. The defendant must then transfer any firearms they currently own and file proof of this transfer with the court. Possession of any firearm during the period of prohibition is a gross misdemeanor.
Federal law also prohibits gun ownership after a domestic assault conviction, both misdemeanors and felonies. The Brady Bill applies to anyone convicted of a domestic violence offense anywhere in the United States. It permanently strips a convicted domestic violence offender of their right to own firearms. This right cannot ever be restored.
So why does Minnesota include firearms prohibitions if federal law already invokes a permanent ban? First, the Brady Bill cites federal definitions of domestic violence. A crime that is not defined as domestic violence under state law might still result in a Brady ban if the offense is defined as domestic violence under federal law. Similarly, Minnesota cannot guarantee that all of its domestic assault convictions will qualify for Brady bans. Writing its own ban ensures that the state can invoke firearms bans for domestic assault convictions. Secondly, the state does not have control over federal law. A federal law could be modified or repealed entirely in the future. A state may not be able to enforce federal law. State law, however, is under state control and can be enforced as the state wants it to be.
Restriction on Your Parenting Rights
Your parenting rights can be challenged by the other parent (in a custody case) or by the state (through a Child Protective Services investigation). In either event, the court will examine your criminal record. Domestic violence convictions are big red flags to an investigator, as they reflect your home life and the atmosphere in which a child is raised. Thus, a domestic assault conviction can give the court a reason to award custody to the other parent or grant a CPS request to remove a child from the home.
Fortunately, courts take a closer look at the circumstances surrounding a domestic violence conviction. Such a conviction on your record does not immediately tell a judge precisely what happened, who was involved, or how the incident reflects upon your fitness as a parent. You are allowed to hire a child custody lawyer who can advocate on your behalf. It is important to note that the child custody lawyer will have an advantage if your assault case was handled properly by a good criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney can help prevent you from being overcharged, given an unfair sentence, or convicted on improper evidence. Protecting your constitutional rights during the criminal case will avoid an unjust outcome in the criminal court, but it will also help prevent an unfair result in the family or juvenile court after the criminal case has been closed.
Experienced Minnesota Assault Lawyers for All Domestic Cases
A domestic assault conviction can carry consequences that follow a defendant for years to come. Even a simple assault conviction can result in the restriction of your gun ownership or parenting rights. An experienced defense attorney will be on your side and can advise you on the best possible method of resolving your case. Call (612) 440-4608 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney.