Understanding domestic abuse and domestic assault in Minnesota

Physical or threatening disputes between household or family members in Minnesota could lead to domestic assault charges, which carry serious penalties.

It is not unusual for family members and others who live together in Minnesota, and elsewhere, to have disagreements from time to time. If these arguments because physical, threatening or otherwise harmful, however, it could lead to serious legal issues. Those involved in domestic disputes could find themselves facing domestic assault charges, a serious offense with potentially far-reaching consequences.

What is domestic abuse?

According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch, assaulting, inflicting bodily injury or physically harming a household or family member is considered domestic abuse in the state. Additionally, if people cause others to fear they will physically harm them or commit some type of criminal sexual conduct, it may qualify as acts of domestic abuse. This type of abuse also includes making terroristic threats or interfering with an emergency call.

There are numerous people who may be defined as household or family members. The Minnesota Judicial Branch points out that spouses, former spouses, those with whom people share a child in common, and those with whom people are involved in a serious romantic or sexual relationship may fall into this category. In addition, household and family members include parents, children and blood relatives. Alleged domestic abuse may also occur between those who currently reside together, or have previously lived with one another.

What are the potential penalties?

People who are involved in domestic abuse incidents may be charged with domestic assault. The level of offense they may be charged with and the potential penalties they might face if convicted depend on factors including their prior records. Generally, domestic assault is a misdemeanor offense that carries a possible sentence of up to 90 days in jail, a fine of no more than $1,000 or both.

According to Minnesota state law, if people have been convicted on a domestic violence charge within 10 years of a domestic assault allegation, it is a gross misdemeanor offense. Therefore, they may be sentenced to up to one year in prison, be ordered to pay a maximum fine of $3,000 or both. Domestic assault is enhanced to a felony level offense if people have been convicted of two prior domestic violence charges within 10 years. This carries a potential prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

Are there other consequences?

Allegations and convictions of domestic abuse-related offenses carry consequences beyond the possible criminal penalties. People who are involved in domestic abuse incidents may have restraining orders filed against them by the purported victims. This could prevent them from entering their own homes, speaking with their family members and taking steps to rebuild any relationships that may be been affected due to the incident.

Further, under Minnesota state law, domestic abuse may affect people's child custody and visitation arrangements. Those involved in such incidents may also be ordered to participate in treatment or counseling programs.

In addition, it is important to note that both state and federal law place restrictions on an individual's right to possess guns following a conviction. Under federal law, anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge will be subjected to a firearms ban. In addition, federal law provides that an individual may not possess firearms if he or she is subject to a restraining order. Minnesota law includes other, specific restrictions. These issues can be complex and are best discussed with a qualified legal professional.

Obtaining legal representation

Situations that start as minor disputes may become serious when arguments between family members in Minnesota become physical. Allegations of domestic abuse and assault may have potentially lasting implications on people, their futures and their families. Those who are charged with domestic assault may find it helpful to seek legal counsel. An attorney may help ensure their rights are upheld, as well as build a defense against the charges they are facing.