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Understanding what fifth-degree assault is in Minnesota

An assault in the fifth degree is the lowest level of assault in the state and is defined under the 2015 Minnesota Statutes as a misdemeanor offense. Despite the lower level of the allegation, it's important to remember that all assault charges are serious and could have significant long-term consequences.

The Minnesota Statutes state a charge of fifth-degree assault can be brought for the following: 

  •          Attempting to make another person afraid of imminent death or grievous injury
  •          Trying to seriously injure somebody
  •          Seriously injuring someone intentionally

Assault in the fifth degree can become a felony charge, potentially leading to up to $10,000 in fines and up to five years in prison. This could happen if the defendant has at least two previous convictions for domestic violence and is alleged to have committed fifth-degree assault on anyone within three years, or on the same person within 10 years of the most recent conviction.

Charges may also be elevated to gross misdemeanors, a level less severe than felonies but more serious than simple misdemeanors. Gross misdemeanors carry possible penalties such as either or both of up to a $3,000 fine and up to a year in prison. Misdemeanor assault charges could become gross misdemeanors when either of the following factors are involved:

  •          The accused was found to have pistols after being convicted of fifth-degree assault within three years of a previous assault conviction.
  •          A defendant previously convicted of domestic violence commits fifth-degree assault against the same victim within 10 years of the prior conviction.
  •          The accused committed assault in the fifth degree against anyone within three years of a prior domestic violence conviction.

Fortunately, Minnesota criminal law isn't only about punishment. According to the Council on Crime and Justice, the state offers those convicted of misdemeanors the chance possibly to expunge their records as long as no new crimes are committed within certain time frames. After four years, gross misdemeanor convictions could be expunged. A petitioner may only have to wait two years after conviction to get a simple misdemeanor sealed.

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