What is an Assault?
The basic definition of an assault is that you either: (1) touched someone with the intent to cause them “bodily harm” (physical harm) or fear of bodily harm; or (2)committed an act with the intent to cause fear of bodily harm. Importantly, no actual contact between the actor and the victim is necessary to prove an assault. This is commonly referred to as “simple assault.”
While even a simple assault is serious, an aggravated assault is among the most severely punished offenses in Minnesota. There are a number of ways that a simple assault will become an aggravated assault. This depends upon the level of force used, or whether a “dangerous weapon” or “deadly force” was used. To begin, it is important to understand that Minnesota law does not use the term “aggravated assault.” Instead, Minnesota’s criminal statutes characterize assaults by severity level based upon the above factors. Minnesota has five severity levels of assault. However, only first (most severe), second and third degree assaults would be considered aggravated assaults.
First Degree Assault
Under Minnesota Statute § 609.221, an actor commits a first degree assault either by: (1) inflicting “great bodily harm” upon the victim; (2) using “deadly force” upon a police officer, prosecuting attorney, judge or correctional officer. First, “great bodily harm” is defined as:
bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.
This is considered the highest level of harm, short of death, that an actor could inflict on a victim. Practically speaking, this could include permanent scarring, the loss of a limb or body part, or paralysis. Additionally, it could also include a combination of injuries that, when taken together, would be considered very serious harm.
Second, using (or attempting to use) “deadly force” against a police officer, prosecuting attorney, judge or correctional officer is also considered an assault in the first degree. This only applies when the government actors are engaged in the performance of their official duties. “Deadly Force” is defined as:
force which the actor uses with the purpose of causing, or which the actor should reasonably know creates a substantial risk of causing, death or great bodily harm.
Firing a firearm at another person or towards an occupied vehicle is automatically considered deadly force. For any other type of action, it is going to be dependent on the surrounding circumstances. The statutory maximum penalty for first degree assault is 20 years imprisonment and $30,000 fine.
Second Degree Assault
Minnesota Statute § 609.222 is commonly referred to “assault with a dangerous weapon.” Assault in the second degree will always require the use of a “dangerous weapon.” However, the severity of punishment is dependent on the level of harm inflicted on the victim, if any. A “dangerous weapon” is defined as:
any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm, any combustible or flammable liquid or other device or instrumentality that, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm, or any fire that is used to produce death or great bodily harm.
Knives and guns are obvious dangerous weapons, but they are not the only ones. Vehicles, baseball bats, and rocks can also be dangerous weapons. Any item, even a pencil, can be a dangerous weapon, if used in a way that is reasonably likely to cause permanent injury or death.
If a dangerous weapon is used AND either no harm or, at most, bodily harm (i.e. bruise, scrape or minor cut) was inflicted on the victim, then the maximum penalty is seven years imprisonment and/or a $14,000 fine. If a dangerous weapon was used and results in “substantial bodily harm” (defined below), then the maximum penalty is ten years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine.
Third Degree Assault
Under Minnesota Statute § 609.223, an assault in the third degree can be committed if the actor: (1) assaults a minor and has a history of child abuse; (2) inflicts “substantial bodily harm” on the victim; or (3) assaults a child under four years old, resulting in bodily injury to the child’s head, eyes, or neck, or otherwise causes multiple bruises to the body. “Substantial bodily harm” is defined as,
bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily member.
This level of injury includes broken bones, dislocations, or cuts or lacerations requiring stitches. It also includes brain injuries — concussions or loss of consciousness.
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The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Sieben & Cotter, PLLC, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.