In Minnesota, there are several different levels of assault charges. The general underlying commonality is an allegation that a person: (1) intentionally inflicted, or attempted to inflict, physical harm upon another person, or (2) committed an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death. Minn. Stat. 609.02 Subd. 10.
Several factors which may impact the level and severity of the type of assault charge may include but are not limited to: the alleged harm that was inflicted, if a weapon was used, the age, mental status, or occupation of the alleged victim, and whether a person has prior assault convictions.
Below are the varying statutory levels of assault:
5th Degree Assault:
In Minnesota, Fifth Degree Assault occurs when an individual:
(1) intentionally inflicts, or attempted to inflict, physical harm upon another person, or
(2) commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death.
A common basis for a charge of Fifth Degree Assault may include an allegation of a punch, push, slap, or some other form of physical contact. However, physical contact is not necessary to support an assault charge – a threat to do any of those actions may also qualify as an assault. Minn. Stat. 609.224 Subd. 1.
As a misdemeanor, it is the lowest level of assault in Minnesota, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine. However, it may be enhanced to a Gross Misdemeanor or Felony depending on prior convictions within a certain time period, and/or whether the alleged victim is the same as from a previous qualified domestic-violence related offense conviction (which includes assault).
4th Degree Assault:
In Minnesota, Fourth Degree Assault covers a broad spectrum of assaults against people employed in certain occupations, including:
- Peace officers,
- Firefighters and emergency medical personnel,
- Certain DNR employees,
- Correctional employees, prosecuting attorneys, judges, probation officers,
- Secure treatment facility personnel,
- School officials,
- Public employees with mandated duties,
- Community crime prevention group members,
- Vulnerable adults,
- Reserve peace officers,
- Utility and postal service employees and contractors,
- Transit operators
Fourth Degree Assault can also include an assault motivated by bias, where someone assaults another because of the alleged victims actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, or national origin.
Depending on the type of assault and resulting harm (if any), occupation of the alleged victim, and potential bias motivation, a Fourth Degree Assault may be charged as a Gross Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and/or a $3,000 fine, or a Felony, with potential prison time and a larger fine. Minn. Stat. 609.2231.
3rd Degree Assault:
In Minnesota, Third Degree Assault occurs typically when an individual assaults someone and inflicts substantial bodily harm. This is means that type of harm was more serious than that of Fifth Degree Assault, which requires only “bodily harm.”
“Substantial bodily harm” is defined as bodily harm that:
- Involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement,
- Causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or
- Causes a fracture of any bodily member.
Common examples of “substantial bodily harm” may include a broken or fractured bone, significant bruising and/or scratches, black eyes, loss of consciousness, a separated shoulder, and other types of harm.
A person can also be charged with Third Degree Assault for:
- Assaulted a minor if the defendant has engaged in a “past pattern of child abuse” against the minor.
- Assaulting a victim under the age of four years old, and causes bodily harm to the child's head, eyes, or neck, or otherwise causes multiple bruises to the body.
Third Degree Assault is a Felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Minn. Stat. 609.223.
2nd Degree Assault:
In Minnesota, Second Degree Assault occurs when either:
- someone uses a dangerous weapon to assault another, or
- someone uses a dangerous weapon to assault another and they inflict substantial bodily harm.
A “dangerous weapon” is defined as:
- Any firearm (loaded or unloaded),
- Any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm,
- Any combustible or flammable liquid or other device or instrumentality that, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm, or
- Any fire that is used to produce death or great bodily harm.
Second Degree Assault is a Felony and carries a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison and/or a $14,000 fine without substantial bodily harm, and up to 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine if substantial bodily harm is inflicted. Minn. Stat. 609.222
1st Degree Assault:
In Minnesota, First Degree Assault occurs when someone assaults another and inflicts great bodily harm.
“Great Bodily Harm” is defined as bodily injury which:
- Creates a high probability of death, or
- Causes serious permanent disfigurement, or
- Causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or
- Other serious bodily harm.
Examples of Great Bodily Harm include: head wounds causing swelling and difficulty eating for several days, multiple stab wounds leaving scars, and a hand injury; gun injury causing permanent damage to reproductive organs; victim knocked unconscious overnight, on the verge of shock, and hospitalized for a week; whipping victim with a cord until backs bled, resulting in permanent scars; laceration of internal organs resulting in ongoing severe health complications; and loss of teeth.
First Degree Assault also applies when an individual uses deadly force, causes great bodily harm, or uses a dangerous weapon or deadly force and causes great bodily harm against a peace officer, prosecuting attorney, judge, or correctional employee.
First Degree Assault is a Felony and carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine; however, if the victim is employed as a peace officer, prosecuting attorney, judge, or correctional employee, the punishments are more severe. Minn. Stat. 609.221.
Depending on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, there are many ways to fight an assault charge, including "Self-Defense."
At Peterson Legal, we work closely with our clients to thoroughly review the evidence, conduct any investigation necessary, and put together the strongest possible defense on every case. If you're facing an Assault charge, you don't have to face it alone -- contact us today for a free case consultation!