When tempers run high and tensions begin to boil over, it is easy for a misunderstanding to blow out of proportions and sometimes, punches fly. When an assault charge is filed, the accused can find him or herself in a world of trouble. The person may spend time in jail, pay a heavy fine, or possibly both.
No matter where in Minnesota you live, assault is a very serious crime. So what qualifies as assault in St. Paul and what do you need to know before charges are ever filed?
Assault Law in Minnesota
Minnesota has tougher assault laws and penalties than most other states. This means that should a person be convicted, the consequences may be much more than he or she ever bargained for.
- First Degree: The most serious assault charge, first degree assault is defined as physically attacking or assaulting another person to the point of “great bodily harm.” The point of “great bodily harm” is determined by whether or not the person hit is in danger of losing his or her life, is disfigured, or has a lost the use of a limb or other part of the body. Assault in the first degree is a felony charge, and anyone convicted may spend up to 20 years in prison and pay as much as $30,000 in fines.
- Second Degree: This degree of assault involves the use of a “deadly” weapon. Deadly does not always mean a gun or a knife. It can be a baseball bat or any other object that when used can cause serious bodily harm. If a person with a weapon causes “substantial bodily harm,” then he or she may spend as many as 10 years. If no harm was actually inflicted, then the sentence may be reduced to 7 years and $14,000 in fines.
- Third Degree: The penalties for assault in the third degree are lower than the previous degrees but nevertheless serious. Should a person be convicted, he or she may spend up to 5 years in prison and pay $10,000 in fines. All of the following offenses can lead to a third degree assault charge:
- Assault of a person under the age of 4
- Assault of a minor where there is already a proven history of abuse
- Assault of someone which leads to substantial bodily harm
- Fourth Degree: This degree of assault depends more on the alleged victim. Crimes that fall short of the criteria listed for third degree assault are usually categorized into fourth degree assault.
- Anyone assaulting a police or corrections officer, firefighter, school official, or emergency medical personnel can be charged with a gross misdemeanor fourth degree assault, which carries a sentence of up to one year in jail and $3,000 fines. This charge can also be levied against people assaulting someone based on his or her race, religion, disability, or sexual preference.
- Fourth degree assault can be upped to a felony charge, which is why it is so important for anyone facing a fourth degree assault charge to contact a defense attorney as soon as possible.
- Fifth Degree: The lowest classification of assault is a misdemeanor. Offenders can spend up to 90 days in jail and pay one or more fines. If a crime does not fit into any of the above qualifications, it will usually be filed as fifth degree assault. A person who commits a harmful or assaultive act with the intention of causing either bodily harm or fear will face this charge, as will anyone even attempting to harm another. The person does not have to succeed in order to be charged with assault.
An assault charge is not something you want on your permanent record.