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Understanding fourth-degree assault in Minnesota

Fourth-degree assaults may be only one degree higher than assaults in the fifth degree, which were explored in a previous post, but they represent significantly more serious crimes. Consequently, the penalties for fourth-degree assault may be much more severe.

The Office of the Revisor of Statutes states that assault is elevated to the fourth degree when the alleged victim belongs to one of the groups listed in the statute. The person must be acting in accordance with his or her recognized or required duties as a member of such a group at the time of the alleged assault. Those accused of committing fourth-degree assault may be charged with a gross misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the alleged assault.  

Gross misdemeanor charges may be brought for assaulting the following:

  •          Commuter rail, light rail, public or other transit operators
  •          Employees of the Department of Natural Resources if they were fighting forest fires at the time
  •          Child protection workers, animal control officers, occupational safety and health investigators, probation or parole officers or agricultural         inspectors
  •          Administrators, teachers or any other school employees
  •          Contractors or employees of the U.S. Postal Service or a utility company
  •          Anyone who meets the legal definition of a vulnerable adult

A gross misdemeanor charge of assault in the fourth degree may also be applied when the alleged victim is a law enforcement officer, a member of a law-enforcement trained and designated neighborhood patrol, safety or crime prevention group or a reserve officer operating at the behest of law enforcement.

Felony charges could result if the alleged victim is a member of one of the following groups and is assaulted with bodily waste or fluids or there is demonstrable bodily harm: 

  •          Employees of secure treatment facilities
  •          Judges, prosecutors, probation officers or correctional employees
  •          Emergency personnel, including nurses, firefighters, EMS units and physicians
  •          Law enforcement officers

Penalties of up to $3,000 in fines, up to a year and a day in prison or both could be assessed against anyone convicted of assaulting someone based on religion, nationality, disability, sex, age, color, race or sexual orientation. Such a charge would also be a felony.

A fourth-degree assault criminal conviction could hurt employment opportunities. Rental History Reports details the Kari Koskinen Manager Background Check Act. It is just one example of legislation allowing "background check crimes" such as assault in the fourth degree to be considered when an application is submitted for certain jobs.

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