Unlike simple assault, which is a misdemeanor, aggravated assault is a felony in Minnesota, punishable with up to 20 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines. Naturally, it can be nerve-racking to get charged with this serious offense. Here’s what you need to know about Minnesota’s aggravated assault charges and what to do if you are accused of this crime.
What is the punishment for assault in Minnesota?
Penalties for assault depend on the degree or severity of the offense. In Minnesota, there are five degrees of assault, of which the three most serious are felony assault degrees or what is often called “aggravated assault.”
This is the most serious level of assault in MN. It is an act that causes great bodily harm to the victim, such as increased risk of death, physical impairment, loss of a limb, or disfigurement. This offense carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of $30,000.
This is assault involving a dangerous weapon, such as a gun, a knife, a baseball bat, or any other object intended to cause bodily harm. Minnesota law considers it second-degree assault whether or not the weapon actually caused injury.
If the assault caused substantial bodily harm, it is punishable with up to 10 years of prison time and up to $20,000 in fines. If the assault did not cause bodily harm or caused only minor injuries, the maximum penalties are seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine.
This charge arises if the alleged victim is a minor and the alleged actor has a history of inflicting child abuse. It can also arise if the alleged victim is a child under the age of four who sustained multiple bruises or other bodily injuries. Third-degree assault is punishable with up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
This is a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota. This charge results from an altercation with a peace officer, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, school officials, and other public employees. Maximum penalties are one year jail time and a $3,000 fine.
An attempt to cause bodily harm on a person is a misdemeanor in Minnesota, whether or not that attempt caused injury. Also, an act committed with the intent to cause fear in another person of immediate bodily harm constitutes 5th degree assault. This least-serious assault offense is punishable with up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
How can I fight an aggravated assault charge in Minnesota?
If you have been arrested on an assault charge, or if you are facing assault allegations, these are steps you should take to help your case:
- Contact an experienced attorney. The moment you are accused of a crime, you need to protect your rights and obtain the counsel of a knowledgeable lawyer. Many individuals have jeopardized their freedom because of seemingly innocent actions and statements. They talk to the police giving statements denying guilt, but nevertheless admitting to essential facts that are used against them to help prove guilt. For example, an accused might deny assaulting the victim, but admit they were angry with him or her. In this instance the accused has given the police a motive to commit the crime, an important part of proving guilt.
Your attorney should guide you on the best strategy going forward.
- Refuse to make a statement. You don’t need to say anything to the arresting officer or the interrogating officer. You have the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not answer any questions. Your silence cannot be used against you – either directly or indirectly. People often ask: ‘If I don’t talk to the police, won’t I look guilty? The answer is NO, you will not look guilty. Politely decline to answer their questions, even if you know you’re innocent or you think you need to explain your side of the story. Instead, refer them to your attorney.
- Avoid contacting the accuser. Anything you say from this point on can be used against you, and attempting to contact the alleged victim could worsen your case. Don’t attempt to resolve the issue yourself, even if you believe your accuser is amicable or mistaken. If there is anything you wish to clarify or communicate, let your lawyer know. Contacting the accuser could look like witness tampering. Moreover, you run the risk that the accuser could twist what you say.
- Be aware of interrogation tactics. During interrogation, officers may promise you a lighter penalty if you cooperate or may claim that they have an eyewitness pinning you to the crime. Often police will be friendly and appear to be on your side by saying they just want to hear “your side of the story” to get this straightened out. These are common tactics to get the accused to say something incriminating. Do not answer or agree to anything without first consulting your lawyer.
Can aggravated assault charges be dropped in Minnesota?
Contrary to what we see on television, accusers or alleged victims cannot “drop the charges.” Once filed, only the state can dismiss the charges. However, state prosecutors do consider the wishes of the accuser or alleged victim in deciding how to move forward with all options pertaining to the case.
If prosecutors pursue the case, it may still be possible to obtain a case dismissal, particularly if you work with a competent criminal defense attorney. An example of a defense strategy is showing that officers violated your constitutional rights during arrest. Your lawyer may also convince the judge that certain evidence should be excluded from the trial, resulting in a weak case that the judge may dismiss. Another strategy is proving that you acted in self-defense. In some cases the victim has lied or exaggerated, possibly motivated by the pursuit of money or revenge.
Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Jeff Dean
With 26+ years of experience in the Minnesota criminal justice system, Attorney Jeff Dean has helped numerous individuals defend their rights and freedoms in assault and other criminal cases. He has obtained numerous dismissals and Not Guilty verdicts for his clients, including in complex and high-profile cases.
Talk to Jeff Dean about the assault charges you are facing. Call (612) 805-6916.