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Domestic Violence Laws

Minnesota Domestic Statutes

What makes a crime a “domestic crime?”  Domestic violence laws all have one common element.  All Minnesota domestic statutes include a relationship element.

The relationship element

Minnesota domestic violence laws, penalties and defense explained

Minnesota domestic violence laws, penalties and defense explained

The word “domestic” means something related to the household or family.  So crimes against someone you know, including your family might fit the domestic statutes’ definitions.

False claims are also common, by a person against someone they know, including their family.

Relationship issues can make us upset, emotional, exaggerate — sometimes even fabricate.  And alcohol is also often a factor.

But if the relationship fits the statutory definition, the allegation can include the “domestic” label.  So many criminal charges have a relationship element as a necessary part of the definition of the crime.

The statutory definition vs. a generic crime with a relationship fact pattern 

Some domestic violence laws have the word “domestic” as part of the label for the crime.  And “misdemeanor domestic assault” is an example.

Other crimes may be domestic in nature, or not.  The government may claim a “victim” with some special family, sexual, or living-arrangement relationship with the defendant.

Prosecutors may charge some cases with relationship-facts, under domestic crime statutes that require proof of relationship.  But they don’t have to do so.

A prosecutor could charge for an assault between strangers (non-domestic), or between a wife and husband (domestic).

But the prosecutor could not charge the stranger assault as a domestic.  And she could charge the wife-husband assault as either  “domestic assault,” or “5th degree assault (non-domestic)”

Increased penalties

Whether an alleged crime is domestic in nature has important implications.  The “domestic” relationship element can dramatically increase the severity of the punishment.  And the consequences of the conviction may be cruel and severe.   For example, a misdemeanor domestic assault conviction triggers deportation for a non-citizen “green card holder.”

For the trial lawyers on both sides, the relationship can also have big practical implications.

So retain the best criminal defense attorney to guide you out of this danger.

And learn about domestic violence laws, the elements of the domestic statutes, penalties, and available defenses.

Here, Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Thomas Gallagher discusses the specifics of Minnesota domestic violence laws.

Domestic violence laws: common domestic crimes charges 

Felony Assault

A Minnesota state “felony” is a crime with a maximum penalty of one-year-and-one-day or longer in prison.  The state can charge felony assault as first through fifth degree, depending upon various factors:

  • level of bodily harm alleged – great bodily harm, substantial bodily harm, bodily harm.
  • method of causing harm or fear – i.e., “strangulation” (often charged without evidence).
  • status characteristics of the claimed “victim” – police officer, child under-four, etc.
  • history of accused (claimed) – pattern of child abuse, prior convictions, same “victim,” etc.
  • specific intent of accused (claim) – motivated by prohibited bias such as race, sex, religion, etc.
  • use of a “dangerous weapon” (claim).
  • “domestic” relationship between the accused and the proposed prosecution witness.

Minnesota Statutes:

§609.221 “Assault in the First Degree.”
§609.222 “Assault in the Second Degree.
 §609.223 “Assault in the Third Degree.
§609.2231 “Assault in the Fourth Degree.
§609.224, subd. 4 “Assault in the Fifth Degree – Felony”
§609.2247, “Domestic Assault by Strangulation.”

The domestic crimes statutes for assault include a relationship element.

Misdemeanor Assault

The most common domestic violence charges are not felonies.

Misdemeanor assaults can include Gross Misdemeanor and simple Misdemeanor assault charges.  A Minnesota State “gross misdemeanor” is a crime with a maximum penalty of one year in jail.  And a Minnesota State “misdemeanor” is a crime with a maximum penalty of 90 days jail.

But don’t worry.  It’s rare to receive the maximum jail sentence, especially where the person has no prior record.  These days a criminal conviction record is worse than jail, due to lifelong consequences.   And a conviction typically includes years of probation with a No Contact Order.

Prosecutors can charge gross misdemeanor and simple misdemeanor assault, depending upon various factors:

  • status characteristics of the “victim” – certain DNR employees, school official, etc.
  • specific intent of accused – motivated by prohibited bias such as race, sex, religion, etc.
  • “domestic” relationship between the accused and the proposed prosecution witness.
  • bodily harm, versus “an act with intent to cause fear.”

Minnesota Statutes:

§609.2231, subds. 2a, 4, 5, 6, 7, “Assault in the Fourth Degree.”
§609.224, subds. 1, 2, “Assault in the Fifth Degree.”
§609.2242, subds. 1, 2, “Domestic Assault.”

“Terroristic Threats”

Even where a domestic relationship exists, this crime doesn’t strictly fit into the domestic violence laws.  The prosecutor need not prove a relationship in order to get a conviction.

Words are not enough?

Words are not enough?

Another misleading title, “terroristic threats” has nothing to do with terrorism.   We could more accurately call it “threats.”  Until recent years, “threats are not enough” was the law.  Now we have a crime by this dramatic, misleading name.

It can be a felony or gross misdemeanor charge.  And it’s  common in domestic scenarios.  It involves a claimed threat of violence plus, a claimed intent to terrorize another.

Minnesota Statutes §609.713, “Terroristic Threats.”

Interference with an Emergency Call (911 call)

Interfering with a 911 call is also a criminal statute apart from domestic violence laws.  So the prosecutor has no burden of proving relationship.

This one can be a gross misdemeanor or a simple misdemeanor charge.

Here is a common scenario.  During a domestic discussion, one party hangs up, takes or disables a call to a 911 emergency dispatcher.  The 911 call recording can help the  prosecutor prove her case at trial.

Minnesota Statutes §609.78, subd. 2, “Interference with an Emergency Call.”

Minnesota Criminal Sexual Conduct

Gallagher Defense logo grNot all criminal sexual conduct prosecutions are “domestic” in nature, but some are.  And most, from first through fifth degrees, are felonies.

Most require sex offender registration if convicted of something (even a lesser charge like disorderly conduct).

So see our sex crimes page for more in-depth discussion.

“Domestic” crim sex cases have built-in questions about the accuser’s veracity and motivation for pointing the finger of blame.  So, the relationship history is automatically a motive or bias.

Factors relevant to domestic-type “crim sex” cases include:

  • “significant relationship,” statutory definition includes blood and marriage-based relationships, as well as college roommates, for example.
  • “position of authority,” or an accused who has parental-type responsibility for the child.
  • penetration vs. sexual contact.

Minnesota Statutes §609.341 to §609.351. (Criminal Sexual Conduct statutes.)

Child Neglect or Endangerment

This can be a felony or a gross misdemeanor crime.  And if the child is related to the defendant, the case may fit into Minnesota’s domestic violence laws.

  • Neglect includes willfully depriving basic necessities, likely to substantially harm the child’s well-being
  • or knowingly permitting sexual abuse.
  • Endangerment includes intentionally causing or permitting a situation likely to substantially harm child.
  • or where illegal drug use, sale, or manufacture.

Minnesota Statutes §609.378, “Child Neglect or Endangerment.”

Malicious Punishment of a Child

If the child is related to the defendant, the prosecutor can charge under Minnesota’s domestic violence laws.

A prosecutor can charge as a felony or gross misdemeanor depending upon various factors:

  • unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances.
  • prior convictions.
  • child under four.
  • level of bodily harm – substantial vs. great vs. bodily harm.

Minnesota Statutes §609.377, “Malicious Punishment of a Child.”

Stalking and Harassment crimes

Stalking and Harassment crimes can be a felony or gross misdemeanor charge.  And though many do not involve a domestic relationship, typically the accuser and the accused do know each other.  But prosecutors do not need evidence to prove a relationship element under these statutes.

Stalking and harassment factors include:

  • following or pursuing, in person or via technology.
  • including phone calls, mail, email, text messaging.
  • intentional conduct, knowing or reason to know, that
  • conduct would cause “the victim” to feel frightened, persecuted, etc.
  • enhanced if various factors proven.
  • status characteristics of the “victim” – lawyer, judge, age under 18, etc.
  • possession of “dangerous weapon.”
  • specific intent of accused – motivated by prohibited bias such as race, sex, religion, etc.
  • history of accused – pattern of child abuse, prior convictions, same “victim,” etc.

Minnesota Statutes §609.749, “Stalking and Harassment crimes.”

Violation of an Order for Protection (OFP), or Harassment Restraining Order (HRO)

Violation of an HRO often does not involve a domestic relationship.  And these crimes can be a felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor, depending upon various factors:

  • knowingly violate the terms of the Order (OFP or HRO).
  • enhanced if various factors proven.
  • status characteristics of the “victim” – lawyer, judge, age under 18, etc.
  • possession of “dangerous weapon.”
  • specific intent of accused – motivated by prohibited bias such as race, sex, religion, etc.
  • history of accused – pattern of prior OFP, HRO violations, convictions, etc.

Other Consequences of domestic violence laws:

  • Firearm civil rights and property rights.
  • Carry permit gone.
  • Child custody factor.
  • Juvenile court & Child Protection case (CHIPS).
  • Immigration law problems, including removal, deportation, bar to re-entry, for most domestic crimes, even misdemeanors.
  • Employment and income stream problems (reduced child support may result as well).
  • Rental housing problems.
  • Civil rights loss for felonies.

Victim’s Rights

When police respond to a domestic 911 call, they choose one of the two people to arrest.

Then police and prosecutors cast the other person into the role of “victim.”  But who is victimizing them? 

The “victim” soon learns that the police, prosecutors and others will ignore their pleas.  Police and prosecutors tell them they have no power, no voice –just shut up and do as you’re told.

But that is a big lie.

If you want the No Contact Order dropped, want the charges dropped, there is a lot you can do as “the victim.”  Dropping the No Contact Order can be a good start.

You do have legal rights.  But they’ll use you and then toss you aside after their needs are met; unless you persistently assert your rights!

The Minnesota Victim’s Rights statute can help.  It’s in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 611A.

And a victim has the right to retain a lawyer to help assert his or her rights.

Rights of the Accused

Contact Criminal Attorney Thomas Gallagher with domestic violence laws questions

Contact Criminal Attorney Thomas Gallagher with domestic violence laws questions

The person accused has rights, too.  So everyone facing a domestic criminal charge needs a good defense attorney.

Minneapolis Criminal Attorney Thomas Gallagher has decades of experience helping clients defend against these charges –  and win.

Now is the time to protect your family, your name, your future.

Question about Minnesota Domestic Violence Laws?  You can call Minneapolis Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher at (612) 333-1500.