The law of assault in Minnesota is very complex, and contains many provisions which can enhance the degree of seriousness of a given offense based on factors outside of what happens in a particular case or encounter.  It is important to recognize that any assault charge can be serious, and you should always consult with an attorney about your case before you make any decisions about it.

There are five degrees of assault in Minnesota.  This article will address only the base-level misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense: Assault in the Fifth Degree.

The offense is set forth in section 609.224 of the Minnesota Statutes.  The following is current as of the date of the writing of this article, February 9, 2017.

609.224 ASSAULT IN THE FIFTH DEGREE.

 Subdivision 1.Misdemeanor.

 Whoever does any of the following commits an assault and is guilty of a misdemeanor:

(1) commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or

(2) intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another.

Subd. 2.Gross misdemeanor.

 (a) Whoever violates the provisions of subdivision 1 against the same victim within ten years of a previous qualified domestic violence-related offense conviction or adjudication of delinquency is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.

(b) Whoever violates the provisions of subdivision 1 within three years of a previous qualified domestic violence-related offense conviction or adjudication of delinquency is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.

Subd. 3.Firearms.

 (a) When a person is convicted of a violation of this section or section 609.221,609.222, or 609.223, the court shall determine and make written findings on the record as to whether:

(1) the defendant owns or possesses a firearm; and

(2) the firearm was used in any way during the commission of the assault.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in section 609.2242, subdivision 3, paragraph (c), a person is not entitled to possess a pistol if the person has been convicted after August 1, 1992, of assault in the fifth degree if the offense was committed within three years of a previous conviction under sections 609.221 to 609.224, unless three years have elapsed from the date of conviction and, during that time, the person has not been convicted of any other violation of section 609.224. Property rights may not be abated but access may be restricted by the courts. A person who possesses a pistol in violation of this paragraph is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

 Subd. 4.Felony.

 (a) Whoever violates the provisions of subdivision 1 against the same victim within ten years of the first of any combination of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions or adjudications of delinquency is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.

(b) Whoever violates the provisions of subdivision 1 within three years of the first of any combination of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions or adjudications of delinquency is guilty of a felony 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.

Although there is a lot of text in this statute, the requisite of the charge is either a threat of immediate bodily harm or death OR an intentional act or an attempt at an act which causes bodily harm to another.

Bodily harm, in turn, is defined as “physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.”  Minn. Stat. 609.02(7).   Courts have interpreted this definition to capture a very broad sense of bodily harm.  For example, in State v. Jarvis, 665 N.W.2d 518 (2003), the Supreme Court of Minnesota stated that “any impairment of physical condition” meant “any injury that weakens or damages an individual’s physical condition.”  This meant that inducing someone to take a drug they did not intend to take could be considered an assault.  Moreover, since physical pain, “which is all the statute requires,” is subjective, it is nearly always a jury question as to whether the complainant or victim felt it.  State v. Johnson, 277 Minn. 230 (1967).

Different situations can aggravate the base misdemeanor offense to different categories of crimes.  Fifth degree assault can become a gross misdemeanor or, in some extreme cases, a felony, if the perpetrator has one or more prior domestic violence-related convictions either against the same person in 10 years, or within 3 years of the date of the present offense.

A conviction under other circumstances can disqualify the perpetrator from owning a firearm, and there is a separate offense noted in the statute for people who do possess such firearms in violation of the statute.

With all of that said, assault charges can often times arise out of domestic disputes, bar fights, and other situations.  Should you or a loved one be charged with any form of assault in Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clay, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Otter Tail or Wadena Counties, it is important that you protect your rights and interests by seeking the advice of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.