Under Minnesota law, domestic assault (Minn. Stat. 609.2242) is an assault against a family member or another person considered a member of the defendant’s household. The punishment for domestic assault is increased if the defendant has a previous conviction on his or her record for domestic assault and certain related crimes. Minnesota will also punish those who knowingly violate protective orders, which judges may grant to people (sometimes called “protected persons”) who don’t want contact with someone they believe to be a danger to them.
Domestic Assault Defined
Domestic assault can be committed in the following ways if directed at a family or household member, according to Minnesota law:
- Intentionally causing bodily harm
- Attempting to cause bodily harm
- Committing any act with the intention of causing the fear of being injured or killed
A common situation leading to domestic assault is two spouses becoming involved in an argument at their home. Should one spouse become upset enough to raise a closed fist towards the other, but not actually strike the other, it may still be considered domestic assault. This can occur when the victim has reason to fear the other spouse will strike. Domestic assault can be charged based on actual harmful contact or just the fear of an act meant to frighten a victim. Often a defendant will be charged with both types: causing bodily harm and causing fear of harm.
Under the state’s domestic assault laws, family and household members include a fairly wide range of people: parents, children, spouses, those who are related by blood, those who currently live together or have previously lived together (meaning roommates or ex-roommates), those who have children together, and those who have a dating relationship. It also includes relationships between pregnant women and the men alleged to be the fathers of their unborn children, even if the woman and man have never been married or never cohabitated.
If a domestic assault involves suffocating or strangling, the charge will be increased to the felony level. Domestic assault may also be charged as a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota, with offenders being sentenced to up to one year in jail. Gross misdemeanor domestic assault is typically charged when there is a qualified prior conviction. Fines for this offense can go as high as $3,000.
A charge of domestic assault that results in a conviction will often entail a process known as a pre-sentence investigation, which is intended to generate a social history and to check for prior domestic assaults, restraining orders, and any other harassment-related crimes on the offender's record. The government employee conducting this investigation may request that there be an order for the offender to attend a domestic violence intervention program, or that they receive drug and alcohol dependency evaluations or other appropriate evaluations or treatment.
In Minnesota, law enforcement officers are allowed to arrest anyone they feel has committed any form of domestic assault, provided that probable cause has been established. They also have the right to arrest anyone whom they believe has violated an order of protection. As with other types of crimes, officers can arrest and hold alleged domestic assault offenders in jail for up to 36 hours before being in front of a judge for a bail hearing (exclusive of the day of arrest, Sundays and legal holidays). Therefore, if you were arrested on suspicion of domestic assault at 12:15 a.m. on a Friday morning, you would not be required to be in front of a judge until just before 12:00 p.m. on Monday.
It is certainly not unusual for people to experience disagreements from time to time, especially when they are family members who live together, and some disagreements can become serious. Arguments can become threatening, physical, or otherwise harmful, and escalate either slowly or rapidly into a legal issue. If you're involved in a domestic assault, you could end up facing domestic assault charges even if you feel you weren’t the aggressor, and this serious offense can have far-reaching consequences if you do not secure experienced legal counsel. When you work with Ringstrom Law, our attorneys and staff will be at your side with knowledgeable, caring, and professional advice to get you through the legal process. Bruce Ringstrom Jr. has secured full acquittals (not-guilty verdicts) on misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony domestic assault charges. We will work as hard as we can to defend you and your rights and protect your future.
Levels of Domestic Assault
Minnesota considers domestic assault to be an enhanceable offense. Enhanceable means that once someone has been convicted of domestic assault, any of their future charges for domestic assault within a window of time will be qualified domestic violence-related crimes that can be sentenced more harshly—sometimes much more harshly. The three levels of domestic assault in Minnesota are as follows:
A charge of domestic assault as a misdemeanor occurs when it is a first-time offense or there have been no convictions on the defendant's record in the past ten years.
Domestic assault is charged as a gross misdemeanor if there is one prior qualifying domestic violence-related conviction in the past ten years on the accused’s record.
Domestic assault is charged as a felony when there are two or more qualifying domestic violence-related convictions on the defendant’s record within the past ten years.
A specific type of felony domestic assault—by strangulation—is defined under Minnesota Statute 609.2247 as being the intentional act of impeding either the normal circulation of blood or breathing by applying pressure on the neck or throat, or by blocking someone's mouth or nose. Someone who assaults a household or family member in this manner will be charged with a felony; in such a case, there is no need for prior convictions to elevate the charge to a felony. Punishment for this charge may include imprisonment for up to three years and a fine up to $5,000.
If you're charged with domestic assault, even if it is a first-time misdemeanor charge, you are facing a significant situation in that the consequences can linger in your life in various ways. (Those consequences are discussed below.) You need an attorney fighting for your rights who understands and knows Minnesota court systems and the state's laws. You should contact Ringstrom Law as soon as you are arrested for domestic assault so that a good defense strategy can be started to protect your future.
Protective Orders Issued in Domestic Assault Cases
Anyone is allowed to petition the court for a protective order, also referred to as a no-contact order. These orders require one person (the alleged offender) to stay away from and not attempt to contact a specific person or persons (the petitioner). When this type of petition is made with the courts, a hearing will be held within a certain timeframe to determine if a no-contact order should be issued.
In domestic assault cases, however, judges often issue no-contact orders around the same day as the alleged offense, at the defendant’s arraignment or bail hearing. The type of no-contact order typically associated with domestic assault cases is a domestic abuse no-contact order (DANCO). Once domestic assault charges are filed and while the case is still pending, a judge can issue a DANCO with the following conditions:
- The defendant cannot stalk, harass, or threaten the protected person(s)
- The defendant cannot have any other form of contact with the protected person(s)
- The defendant cannot indirectly contact the protected person(s) through others
- The defendant cannot go to the residence of the protected person(s), or to other specified locations (although sometimes exceptions are granted for a police escort)
Unlike a condition of release where a defendant is ordered to have no contact with an alleged victim (which can be avoided by posting unconditional bail), a DANCO is not avoided by the posting of cash or bond. The issuance of a DANCO can be argued against, and both Bruce Ringstrom Jr. and Bruce Ringstrom Sr. have successfully argued at bail hearings that DANCOs not be issued.
It is a separate crime in Minnesota to violate a DANCO. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for this to happen to people already charged with domestic assault, sometimes for the seemingly benign act of communicating with a spouse about childcare or transportation. Just as with domestic assault cases, violation of a DANCO can be charged at misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony levels:
- Misdemeanor: The defendant is aware of a DANCO issued against him or her and somehow violates the order.
- Gross misdemeanor: The violation of a DANCO occurs within 10 years of the defendant’s prior qualified offense related to domestic violence.
- Felony: The defendant has two or more prior qualified offenses and violates a DANCO within 10 years of the first prior. Alternately, the defendant violates a DANCO while in the possession of certain types of weapons.
Ex Parte Order in Domestic Assault
There are certain circumstances that permit Minnesota judges to grant a temporary protective order before a full hearing is held. In these instances, the offender will not receive a notice and will not be present when the judge issues the order. This action is known as an “ex parte” order for protection. These orders are granted by the judge when the petitioner alleges there is an immediate danger of domestic assault. The purpose of ex parte orders is to prevent the offender from committing domestic abuse or assault, as well as from contacting the petitioner. These orders may contain conditions like the following:
- The offender is excluded from the petitioner’s workplace or home
- The offender is required to continue the petitioner’s insurance coverage
- The petitioner is given temporary possession of any pets to prevent the offender from abusing the pets
An ex parte order will remain in effect for the set amount of time determined by the judge, though it can be vacated or adjusted.
Punishment for Domestic Assault in Minnesota (Incarceration and Fines)
Each case has its own unique circumstances and facts that can determine the nuances of how the case is sentenced. In general, however, Minnesota Statutes 609.03, 609.2242, and 609.2247 cover the punishments for domestic assault, which at the misdemeanor level is punishable by up to 90 days in jail with a possible fine of up to $1,000. If there is suffocation or strangulation involved, the sentence can be increased to up to three years in prison with up to $5,000 in fines.
Minnesota allows for new domestic assault charges to be enhanced to a gross misdemeanor or even a felony if there are qualifying violence-related domestic convictions on an offender's record. These qualifying violence-related domestic convictions—some of which are more intuitive than others—include
- Violation of an OFP (an order for protection)
- Violation of an HRO (a harassment restraining order)
- Violation of a DANCO (a domestic abuse no-contact order)
- First or second-degree murder
- Criminal sexual conduct (except fifth-degree)
- Malicious punishment of a child
- Terroristic threats
- Sending private sexual images without consent
- Interference with a 911 call
- Any similar domestic violence-related law from states other than Minnesota
If the offender has one prior conviction of this type, the domestic assault is punishable for up to one year in jail, with a possible $3,000 fine. If the offender has two or more of these convictions on his or her record, the new domestic assault will be punishable for up to five years in state prison with a fine up to $10,000.
Firearm Consequences Related to Domestic Assault Conviction
If an offender is convicted of domestic assault against a household or family member, or if he or she has violated a protective order, the court will order the offender to forfeit the firearm that was used in the offense (provided that it was owned by that offender). The state can also request, and in some situations is required to demand, that the offender be prohibited from owning a firearm in the future. If this firearm prohibition is violated, the offender faces up to one year in jail and a fine that goes as high as $3,000, because this type of violation is a gross misdemeanor offense. Firearm prohibitions may include pistols, rifles, or both.
The ability to possess firearms for hunting, target shooting, and a variety of other purposes is important to many Minnesota residents. If you are facing the loss of this ability, you want a criminal defense attorney with experience working with you, whether the outcome is getting your domestic assault charges dismissed, winning a not-guilty verdict at trial, or achieving a favorable pre-trial resolution. Ringstrom Law understands your rights, and we will do everything in our power to protect your right to own a firearm.
Other Collateral Consequences for Domestic Assault
In addition to the incarceration, fines, and firearm-related consequences mentioned above, a conviction for domestic assault can produce various other consequences. These may include no contact allowed with the victim (even after the disposition of the case), substance abuse counseling, substance abuse treatment, community service, electronic home monitoring, electronic alcohol monitoring, anger management classes, and probation. (As of August 2020, most probation terms in Minnesota are capped at five years.)
Defense Against Domestic Assault
Some of the keys to defending domestic assault charges in Minnesota are a thorough knowledge of the court system; understanding jurors’ views on domestic violence, family dynamics, and other relevant topics; and having cordial relationships with prosecutors, or at least the ability to communicate and negotiate with prosecutors and victims’ advocates. One of the most important keys to a successful defense of a domestic assault charge is having a criminal defense attorney with a record of winning domestic assault trials and getting domestic assault cases dismissed. For these reasons, you need a strong, experienced legal team working with you to build a robust defense strategy.
A domestic assault defense attorney will review the evidence brought against you, create a strategy to defend against this evidence, and work to get the charges reduced or dismissed. If getting the case dismissed is not an option for whatever reason, your attorney from Ringstrom Law will be with you throughout the entire trial process. Bruce Ringstrom Sr. and Jr. have taken numerous domestic assault cases to trial and have gotten not-guilty verdicts for many of these clients.
There are several types of defenses that can be successful in domestic assault cases, such as the following:
- Defense of another person
- Mental illness or deficiency
- False allegations
- Necessity (the accused had no choice but to break the law in order to avoid a far worse harm)
It is not an uncommon scenario that only the accused and the alleged victim were witnesses to what is being referred to as domestic assault. These scenarios often result in a “he said, she said” case, in which the evidence for either side can be difficult to present. In this type of case, the factors that need to be considered include the credibility of the witnesses, the criminal record of the alleged offender, and prior accusations made by the alleged victim. (The alleged victim’s history is not always admissible at trial, but it can still be relevant in crafting a defense strategy.) Because of the challenges involved in these types of cases, you will want Ringstrom Law working on your behalf to ensure that your story and credibility are presented correctly, and to get you the best chance of a good outcome for your case.
In domestic assault cases, it is often critical to start gathering witness testimony, physical evidence, and other kinds of evidence right away. Our team understands what evidence needs to be sought as soon as possible and has relationships with investigators and forensic experts. As a case progresses, the need to use other kinds of experts may emerge, and we have experience with this as well.
Find a Domestic Assault Attorney Near Me
Domestic assault charges can affect your life profoundly in the short term as well as have far-reaching consequences on your future. When you’re charged with this type of crime, it is critical to have the right legal team working for you. If you have been charged with a Minnesota domestic assault, contact Ringstrom Law at 218-284-0484 in order to protect your future and your rights against these very serious charges. Planning a defense strategy as soon as possible will give you a much better chance of a positive outcome. Call today to discuss building your defense against the domestic assault charges you face.