Crimes » Crimes Against Persons » Riot Charges

Riot Charges

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The riot law in Minnesota is Minnesota Statutes §609.71. Criminal riot charges can range from First to Third Degree. And the charges are either a felony or a gross misdemeanor. So, a person facing a Minnesota riot charge needs a good riot attorney.

Crimes Against Persons vs. Disorderly Conduct by Three of More Persons

In criminal law, we can draw a line between crimes against persons and violent crimes on the one hand; and other, more trivial crimes like disorderly conduct. The second category are bordering on regulatory in nature.

But Minnesota’s riot law blurs that line, to some extent.

So, let’s take a look at Minnesota Statutes §609.71

Subdivision 1. Riot first degree. When three or more persons assembled disturb the public peace by an intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence to person or property and a death results, and one of the persons is armed with a dangerous weapon, that person is guilty of riot first degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 20 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $35,000, or both.

Subd. 2. Riot second degree. When three or more persons assembled disturb the public peace by an intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence to person or property, each participant who is armed with a dangerous weapon or knows that any other participant is armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of riot second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.

Subd. 3. Riot third degree. When three or more persons assembled disturb the public peace by an intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence to person or property, each participant therein is guilty of riot third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.”

Minnesota Statutes §609.71 (2019)

Key elements of the Minnesota riot law – riot attorney guide

“three or more persons”

riot: three or more persons
riot: three or more persons

Group crimes are less common. So, the “three or more persons” element of the criminal statute is key. In general, if a prosecutor charges a person with a riot crime; they could also charge some other crime without the “three or more persons” element. For example, a person possessing an illegal weapon could face felony charges of Riot – Second degree, and Assault – Second degree.

But without evidence of “three or more persons” any Riot charges would fail.

“assembled disturb the public peace”

Unless the group “assembled disturb the public peace,” the charge fails. Evidence could show the defendant did, or did not, assemble to disturb the public peace.

“an intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence to person or property”

The riot law requires evidence of an intentional act, or an intentional threat. Lacking those, the charge fails.

And the prohibited act or threat must be of unlawful force or violence. So, lawful force or violence is not a crime.

As a result, where the prosecutor is claiming “an intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence;” your riot attorney can defend you with evidence that any threat or act of force or violence was lawful.

So, self-defense, and defense of another, are affirmative defenses to a riot charge. But the defendant needs a good riot attorney to effectively present that defense.

Whether an act or threat of force was “person or property” can make a difference, too. Crimes against persons are more serious crimes.

“armed with a dangerous weapon”

The two felony riot crimes requires evidence of “armed with a dangerous weapon.” But the gross misdemeanor riot crime has no weapon element. So, no weapon means no felony.

But, both felony riot laws criminalize all members of the group, where anyone in the group had a “dangerous weapon.”

Definition of “dangerous weapon”

“‘Dangerous weapon’ means any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or 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.”

Minnesota Statutes §609.02, Subd. 6 (2019)

Level of harm, if any

The First Degree felony riot crime requires evidence that a death resulted from the intentional, prohibited act. The prosecutor would not have to prove the defendant specifically intended to kill. If prosecutors claim evidence that the defendant intended to kill a person, they would charge murder.

But they would need to prove criminal intent and the prohibited act. The prohibited act includes: “assembled disturb the public peace by an intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence to person or property;” … “and one of the persons is armed with a dangerous weapon,” both.

So, we have three key distinctions for the three Minnesota riot crimes:

  1. Death (Felony First Degree Riot)
  2. Weapon (Felony First and Second Degree Riot)
  3. Assembled to disturb the public peace by an intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence to person or property (no harm or weapon). (Gross Misdemeanor Riot)

Self-defense – riot attorney

During rioting, calling 911 often serves no purpose. Government law enforcement is unavailable.

So, people must defend themselves, their families and their property.during periods of social unrest and chaos.

The use of reasonable force in self-defense is legal under Minnesota law. And it’s legal to defend another from bodily harm; and to defend property.

But no bright line exists in the law,defining lawful self-defense.

Rather, the law calls for a totality of the circumstances test. And over the years, we’ve developed a set of factors commonly considered important in those circumstances.

An act of self-defense within a context of rioting and violent mob behavior, is more likely to be justified, than in normal times.

So, take a look at our other pages on self-defense:

Self-defense – Minnesota Overview

Self-Defense Laws in Minnesota

Collateral Consequences

Your riot attorney can help you avoid prison, jail, or a criminal conviction record.

Gun rights: A felony riot conviction is on Minnesota’s “crimes of violence” list. So such a conviction triggers a presumptive lifetime loss of civil rights to firearms.

So, you may want your riot attorney to be an expert on Minnesota gun laws.

Immigration: A conviction for any riot offense will likely cause an immigration law problem for any non-citizen; even a lawful Permanent Resident. But a felony Riot conviction may be an “aggravated felony” under federal immigration law, with severe immigration consequences.

Minnesota Riot Attorney Thomas C. Gallagher

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Riot charges arise within chaotic circumstances. And police may arrest an innocent bystander. A prosecutor may charge an innocent person.

But considering the serious nature of these charges, the defendant needs a good riot attorney. The government can destroy a person’s life and career with little thought or care, with a charge like this.

Attorney Thomas Gallagher can put over three decades experience to work for you. He can help protect you and your family from Minnesota riot charges.

Give Attorney Thomas Gallagher a call for immediate help, at 612 333-1500.