Assault charges can be the result of different kinds of circumstances. They may stem from exaggerated accusations, mutual altercations or arguments due to a misunderstanding. Furthermore, these alterations may involve self-defense or the defense of another person.
To defend charges of assault with a deadly weapon, it is best to seek the recommendation of an experienced assault lawyer in Minnesota. Though dropping assault charges depends purely on the case facts and details, a lawyer will be equipped with comprehensive knowledge about relevant assault laws. He/she will be in a position to defend clients by providing the best possible representation.
Let us now understand how Minnesota laws apply to charges of assault with deadly weapons.
What Is Assault in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, assault charges apply when you hit another person. But assault can also be making a threat of harm (e.g., raising a fist) or intending to cause harm (e.g., taking a swing and missing).
Simple assault is a misdemeanor in MN. It’s considered simple assault if you harm someone, attempt to inflict harm, or commit an act that intends to cause the fear of harm. In a simple assault, the victim obtains no injuries.
After simple assault, Minnesota uses a first- through fifth-degree classification system. Fourth- and fifth-degree assaults are usually charged as misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors.
Getting a third- through fourth-degree assault charge is almost always a felony. And in Minnesota, a felony automatically means you’re eligible for at least one year in prison.
Using a deadly weapon during an assault can be a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony, depending on the circumstances. But no matter what type of charge you receive, the penalties for assault increase when a deadly weapon is present.
Assault With Deadly Weapons Definitions
It’s important to understand a few assault-related definitions before we talk about types of assault with deadly weapons charges.
Firstly, according to the Minnesota Statutes, deadly or dangerous weapons include:
- Firearms (whether unloaded or loaded)
- Flammable liquids
- Fire used to inflict great bodily harm
- Any other weapon capable of causing great bodily harm
A “flammable liquid” is any liquid with a flashpoint over 100℉. Flashpoint refers to the temperature at which air can ignite the liquid. In Minnesota, this definition doesn’t include drinkable alcohol, so throwing a drink on someone at a bar isn’t usually considered assault with a deadly weapon.
We mentioned above that fire can be considered a deadly weapon if it leads to “great bodily harm.” But what does that mean? Bodily harm is physical pain, injury, or illness.
So, great bodily harm is an injury with a high probability of death. An assault that causes permanent disfigurement or permanent loss or impairment of any body part also inflicts great bodily harm.
Minnesota law further defines “substantial bodily harm.” Substantial bodily harm is an injury that leads to fracture, a “temporary but substantial” disfigurement, OR a “temporary but substantial” loss or impairment of a body part.
What Are the Types of Assault with Deadly Weapons Charges?
The use of a deadly weapon for assault can be either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the severity and circumstances surrounding the assault.
Misdemeanor Assault with Deadly Weapon Charges in Minnesota
If the offender has used a deadly weapon during an assault, he/she may be levied of misdemeanor charges under the following circumstances:
- The assault was committed with the intention of causing fear/immediate bodily harm or death
- The accused was intentionally inflicted/attempted to inflict bodily harm on another person
A gross misdemeanor charge will apply in the following scenarios:
- “If the accused 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 termed guilty of a gross misdemeanor.”
The penalty for a gross misdemeanor may include a sentence of imprisonment of not more than one year or payment of a fine up to $3000, or both.
- “If the accused 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 a year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3000, or both.”
Furthermore, it is important to note that one need not necessarily cause bodily harm to another individual to be charged by assault. Even having a firearm during the act can result in being charged with fifth-degree assault.
Felony Assault with Deadly Weapon Charges in Minnesota
According to the Statutes of Minnesota, felony assault with deadly weapon charges are imposed in the following scenarios:
“Whoever assaults another with a dangerous weapon may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven years or to payment of a fine of not more than $14,000, or both.”
If substantial bodily harm occurs, the following penalties apply:
“Whoever assaults another with a dangerous weapon and inflicts substantial bodily harm may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.”
Domestic Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charges in Minnesota
Committing domestic assault with a deadly weapon in Minnesota is an automatic felony. A judge can also order the court to temporarily or permanently seize your weapon and any other firearms you’re in possession of.
Under Minnesota Statute 609.2242, it’s perfectly legal to prohibit domestic assault felons from possessing firearms for at least three years or up to a lifetime. If you do take possession of a weapon after one of these court orders, it’s a gross misdemeanor.
Using a firearm you aren’t supposed to have in a second domestic assault within ten years is an automatic felony. You can earn up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine for this crime.
If you’ve been charged with assault with a deadly weapon or domestic assault with a deadly weapon, you need the best Minnesota assault attorney by your side to ensure a fair outcome.
What Defenses Can Be Used against Assault with Deadly Weapon Charges?
Depending on the facts of the case, your assault lawyer may use the below-described defenses to get the charges minimized or even dropped.
- Self Defense
Self-defense is one of the most common defenses to second-degree assault.
A person can claim self-defense in the following scenarios:
- If the victim has initiated the confrontation
- If the accused believes that the assault caused bodily harm to him/her
- If the accused was not able to escape from the assault to a safe location
- If only a negligible amount of force was used to stop the attack
- Defense of Others
This kind of defense is similar to self-defense. This mechanism is used to defend others from bodily harm that may have been caused due to the assault.
- Defense of Property
Defense of property can be used only in limited circumstances. For example, if someone has attempted to steal your wallet or harm your movable/immovable assets, the application of reasonable force to defend property can be used.
- Lack of Evidence
The lack of evidence can be cited in cases wherein the weapon used for committing the assault is not found. Again, if the accused was present at the crime scene circumstantially, the assault charge may be questioned. These are a few ways to find loopholes in the prosecution’s case due to lack of evidence.
- Mental Incapability
Mental incapability refers to the unstable status of the accused during the assault. It means that the accused did not have the mental stability to make a sound judgment about reacting to the assault. Therefore, the person in question should not be severely punished based on the statutes of law.
This defense may be presented if the accused was voluntarily or involuntarily intoxicated during the act of assault, i.e. the defendant was not aware of his/her actions because of the intoxication.
Involuntary intoxication can be used as a defense if the defendant proves that he/she was tricked into consuming drugs/alcohol. This could have prevented the defendant from understanding the intent of his/her actions.
However, the jury may accept voluntary intoxication as a defense based on the details of cases.
Using an alibi involves proving that the defendant was not present at the scene of the crime, thereby proving that he/she is being falsely related to the assault charge. It may also need to be proven that the defendant was present elsewhere. For example, a third party may claim that the defendant was with them when the assault happened.
How Can a Lawyer Help in Dropping Assault Charges with Deadly Weapons?
The jury may have a wide degree of discretion when imposing a sentence for assault charges with deadly weapons. Several factors are taken into consideration during case evaluation. A few of them are as follows:
- The ages of the victim and the defendant
- If the defendant already has a criminal record
- The strength of the evidence submitted by the prosecution
An experienced assault lawyer will be able to analyze the intricacies of the case and try to get the charges of an assault to lesser severity or even completely dismissed.
How to Choose the Right Assault Attorney in MN
Assault and domestic assault with a deadly weapon are serious charges in Minnesota. If you want to avoid the maximum sentence, you need the best Minnesota criminal defense attorney to fight for you.
Here are the top qualities to look for in a good criminal defense lawyer.
A lawyer with aggressive tactics won’t rest until you get the best outcome possible. But what does it mean to be aggressive?
Good assault lawyers are aggressive because they’re proactive and show courage.
Proactive means figuring out problems and how to solve them before the other side brings them up. Courage is critical for fighting hard cases like yours.
Assault With Deadly Weapon Charge Experience
Make sure you choose an experienced assault lawyer. And, more specifically, pick a criminal defense lawyer with a proven track record of defending assault with deadly weapons charges. After all, you don’t want an attorney who’s never defended an assault with deadly weapons case.
Your Minnesota assault attorney should know the assault basics off the top of his or her head. Never hire an assault lawyer who needs to research assault laws before offering legal advice.
Familiarity With Local Minnesota Courts
Finally, your assault lawyer shouldn’t just have experience fighting cases like yours. The best assault attorneys will also have experience in the local court where your trial will take place.
Knowing prosecutors, judges, and other staff members can help your legal representative be more proactive.
Plus, close relationships with the local court could mean good news for your case. A good lawyer might be able to strike better deals than an attorney who isn’t familiar with your local Minnesota court.
Assault allegations may result in serious penalties upon conviction. However, an assault lawyer will strive hard to support his/her client to the maximum extent possible and fight for the best representation based on the case facts.
Hopefully, the above-mentioned details will give you a comprehensive view of how assault charges with deadly weapons are presented in court and the possible defenses that may help fight these charges.
Reach out to Our Assault Lawyers in MN
For any further questions and legal help with assault with a deadly weapon charges, feel free to connect with our experienced assault lawyers at our Buffalo office at 855-762-6548 or contact us online and get a free consultation.
Originally published on July 27th, 2020 and updated on September 9, 2021.