Minnesota’s Assault, Self-Defense Laws

Assault is a serious crime and Minnesota, specifically, has some of the toughest penalties in the nation. There are five degrees of assault in Minnesota, not including domestic assault. The degrees range from first being the most serious, to fifth being the least serious.

In General, assault is when a person either:

(1) commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or

(2) intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another.

1st Degree Assault is the most serious of the assault offenses. This offense is a felony carrying a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. This is characterized by physically assaulting another and causing Great Bodily Harm. Great bodily harm means acting with a substantial likelihood of causing death, or causing serious permanent disfigurement or impairment of the body.

2nd Degree Assault is an assault with a dangerous weapon, which includes enhancements if the assault results in substantial bodily harm. A dangerous weapon does not have to be a gun, and can really be any object intended to be used or has a likelihood of producing death or great bodily harm. This is a felony offense. Punishment is determined by the severity of the assault. If a person caused substantial bodily harm then the punishment is a maximum of 10 years in prison. If the assault resulted in less than substantial bodily harm, or no harm then the maximum penalty is 7 years in prison.

3rd Degree Assault is assaulting another person and inflicting substantial bodily harm. Substantial bodily harm means that you caused a temporary but substantial disfigurement or impairment, or a fracture of any bodily member. This is also a felony offense carrying a maximum punishment of 5 years in prison.

4th Degree Assault is specific to assaulting certain groups of people such as, peace officers, corrections officers, school officials, firefighter, or other emergency medical personnel. This offense also includes assault that is motivated by bias against someone’srace, religion, disability, or sexual preference. This is generally a gross misdemeanor offense, meaning up to one year in jail. In some circumstances this offense can be elevated to a felony.

5th Degree Assault is a misdemeanor offense. This is accomplished by assaulting another without a weapon and causing bodily harm. Bodily harm is any physical injury or impairment. This offense can also be committed by intentionally putting someone in fear that you will physically assault them, this does not require any actual physical contact with the person. This offense can also be elevated to a felony, depending on the victim and your prior convictions.

Related to these offenses is Domestic Assault, which is assaulting any family or household member, including people you live with even if you are not married. The seriousness of the punishment is generally dependent either upon the severity of the assault, or the number of repeat offenses over a ten year time period.

Acting in Self-Defense is a valid defense to an assault charge. It is important to know that in Minnesota you have a duty to retreat, prior to defending yourself or others. The Duty to Retreat means that you must attempt to retreat, where practical, from the threat before responding with reasonable force. Reasonable Force is responding with a level of force that is commensurate with the threat level perceived at the time. If you are defending yourself or other from a violent attack, even deadly force can be reasonable depending on the circumstances.

Assault is a serious offense carrying harsh penalties, which can stay with you for the rest of your life. It is important that you seek a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to act on your behalf. 

Attorneys Tom Sieben and Patrick Cotter have years of experience navigating Minnesota’s legal system and have successfully defended countless criminal cases. If you want skilled and experienced criminal defense attorneys on your side, call the Sieben & Cotter Law Office at 651-455-1555 for your free initial consultation.

For more information:
Minnesota Statue §§ 609.221-2242