Minnesota has a unique statutory scheme for dealing with assault charges when the element of domestic violence is in play.  A separate charge exists in the law for domestic assault, but a basic assault charge can also be enhanced if the accused has a prior domestic violence-related offense conviction within a certain time of the commission of a present alleged offense.

The domestic assault charge makes it a misdemeanor to commit an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death or intentionally inflict or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon a family or household member.

A family or household member means a spouse or former spouse, parents, children, persons related by blood, a person with whom the subject is residing or has resided with in the past, persons with a child in common, an alleged father, or persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship.  Whether a person is a family or household member under the statute will be determined in court.

There are two offense levels of domestic assault, misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor.  The misdemeanor charge is the basic offense, but the charge can be enhanced to a gross misdemeanor if the subject has a previous qualified domestic violence-related offense conviction within 10 years of the present offense.

What is a qualified domestic violence-related offense?  The definition section of the crimes part of the Minnesota Statutes defines the qualified offenses.  MN Statutes § 609.02(16).  These include: offenses related to violations of domestic violation orders for protection; murder; every degree of assault; most criminal sexual conduct offenses; terroristic threats; and others.

A qualified domestic violence-related offense can also enhance a fifth degree assault from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor if they violate that statute against the same victim within 10 years of a previous qualified domestic violence-related offense conviction.

As you can see, there are many considerations that come into play when evaluating any domestic violence charge.  If you or a loved one have been charged with this offense, you need to discuss your case with a qualified attorney.