Thursday, July 5, 2012

Minnesota Domestic Assault & Gun Rights (Explained)

As a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, I gets lots of questions about Domestic Violence.

Domestic Assault is generally defined as either "an act intended to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death" or "an attempt or actual infliction of bodily harm upon another" who is a household member.  

This can include any of the following relationships:

  • Spouses and former spouses;
  • Parents and children;
  • Persons related by blood;
  • Persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past;
  • Persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time;
  • A man and woman if the woman is pregnant and the man is alleged to be the father, regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time; and
  • Persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship.

These definitions are quite important since it is a common misconception that two persons must actually live together to be in a domestic assault.  Likewise, domestic assaults do not only occur between spouses or between parents and children. 

Levels of Domestic Assault

Domestic Assaults are known as "enhanceable" offenses in Minnesota.  This means if a person is convicted of domestic assault, any future charges and convictions for assault or "qualified domestic violence-related offenses" will be treated harsher.

  • Misdemeanor: First-time offense or no qualified domestic violence-related convictions in the past 10 years;
  • Gross Misdemeanor: One prior qualified domestic violence-related conviction in the past 10 years;
  • Felony: Two or more qualified domestic violence-related convictions in the past 10 years (maximum punishment of 5 years in prison or $10,000.00, or both.)

 Qualified Domestic Violence-related Offenses in Minnesota

What is considered a "qualified domestic violence-related offense" under the laws of the State of Minnesota --- here are some examples:

  • Violation of a domestic abuse order for protection
  • Violation of a domestic abuse no contact order (DANCO)
  • Murder in the First and Second Degree
  • Assault in the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Degree
  • Domestic Assault
  • Domestic Assault by Strangulation
  • Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First, Second, Third or Fourth Degree
  • Malicious Punishment of a Child
  • Terroristic Threats
  • Violation of a Harassment Restraining Order
  • Stalking
  • Interference with an Emergency Call

As you'll note, someone with any of these convictions who then commits a Domestic Assault will face "enhanced" charges and more severe penalties.

Domestic Assault and the Effect on Firearms in Minnesota 

If an individual is convicted of Domestic Assault, and the court determines that the victim was a family or household member, the defendant can be prohibited from owning and possessing fire arms - forever!

Common Defenses

Some defenses to domestic assault include self-defense, defense of another person, defense of property and false allegations.  It is a common scenario to have one the defendant and the alleged victim as witnesses to the assault.  These cases are often referred to as "he said, she said" scenarios.  Factors to consider in such cases include the credibility of the witnesses and the criminal history of the defendant.  Because of assault case presents different facts and circumstances, it is wise to seek the opinion of a criminal defense attorney on possible defenses and the likelihood of success at trial.

What to Expect

Persons charged and convicted of domestic assault can expect to have their right to carry firearms taken away, as discussed above.  Defendants can also expect a combination of the following: probation usually lasting 2 years, a monetary fine, no contact with the victim, substance abuse counseling or treatment, community service, anger management classes, electronic home monitoring or local jail time.  First-time offenders typically serve no jail time or a very short amount of jail time (such as 2 or 3 days, which oftentimes can be served through community work service or house arrest).  For second and subsequent convictions, these same expectations exist but the length or probation is increased along with the likelihood the person will serve time in local jail.
Each case has unique facts and circumstances.  Furthermore, not every city and county handles domestic assault cases the same way.  Harsher punishment is typically sought in cases where the victim was badly hurt, alcohol or drugs were involved, there is a pattern of abuse, a weapon was involved or where the defendant has prior criminal convictions.

Domestic Assault Defense Attorney in Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you face domestic assault charges in the Twin Cities, call the criminal defense attorneys of Keyser Law Firm at (612) 338-5007 for a free consultation.  You can also fill out the "Free Consultation" box on this page to directly e-mail our attorneys.  Our fees are affordable and we accept payment plans for select clients.

1 comment:

  1. What do you recommend for someone who has witnessed a domestic assaults but was told by the victim not to say anything?