Facing a Domestic Assault Charge in Minnesota: What You Need to Know

A charge of domestic assault in Minnesota is a serious criminal matter than can result in severe consequences. Minnesota statutes define domestic assault as an act that inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm against a family or household member with the intent to cause fear of bodily harm or death. Simple domestic assault, without the aggravating circumstances discussed below, is considered a misdemeanor. However, if it involves strangulation, the assault is considered a felony and carries a sentence of not more than three years in prison or a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both. "Family or household members" is broadly defined under the law as including:

  • Spouses, former spouses, parents, and children;
  • Individuals related by blood;
  • Individuals presently living together or who have lived together in the past;
  • Individuals who have a child in common without regard to marital status or history of residing together;
  • A woman and man if the woman is pregnant and the man is allegedly the father, regardless of marital status or history of residing together; and
  • Those involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship.

Prior Qualified Domestic Violence-Related Offenses

If you have a prior conviction of a domestic-violence related offense within ten years of being charged with domestic assault, the charge becomes a gross misdemeanor and may result in a maximum prison term of one year or payment of a fine not exceeding $3,000, or both. If you have two or more prior convictions of such offenses, then the domestic assault charge becomes a felony with a maximum jail term of five years, or a payment of a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both.

  • Qualified domestic-violence offenses include the following crimes under Minnesota law:
  • Violating a domestic abuse Order For Protection (OFP);
  • Violating a domestic abuse no-contact order;
  • First and second degree murder;
  • First through fifth degree assault;
  • Domestic assault and domestic assault by strangulation;
  • First through fourth degree criminal sexual misconduct;
  • Malicious punishment of a child;
  • Terroristic threats;
  • Harassment, violating a harassment restraining order, or stalking; and
  • Interference with an emergency call.

An OFP may be acquired by a family or household member with allegations of domestic abuse by filing a petition in court. An OFP may prohibit the alleged abuser from further abusive acts, from entering the home shared with the petitioner or the petitioner's separate residence, or from being within a reasonable area surrounding the home. An OFP may also award temporary custody of minor children of the parties based on the safety of the victim and the children, and establish temporary support (which may include withholding income of the person obligated to pay the support). The court may also issue a no-contact order against the defendant during the proceedings for a domestic assault charge, which prohibits the defendant from contacting the victim. Violation of a no-contact order may result in a separate misdemeanor charge.

Arrest and Detention Issues in Domestic Assault

Peace officers in Minnesota may make a warrantless arrest of a person anywhere, including his or her residence, if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person committed domestic assault in the last 24 hours. The assault does not have to take place in the officer's presence for an arrest to be made. Additionally, peace officers are required to arrest individuals, even without a warrant, if there is probable cause to believe that the person violated a domestic violence no-contact order or certain OFPs prohibiting entry from a residence place of employment.

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