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A Hutchinson Criminal Lawyer Explains the 5 Types of Assault Cases in MN

by | Oct 26, 2021 | Criminal Defense, Firm News, Hutchinson

Most assault cases occur when the temperature is between 80 and about 90 degrees. That sounds like a Minnesota summer to me. Heat increases testosterone production, which increases aggression. When the temperature gets much higher than 90, people stay inside, so the assault rate goes down.

In all these cases, the prosecutor must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Lack of evidence is usually one of the best defenses a Hutchinson criminal lawyer can use. However, sometimes it’s better to settle these cases out of court. Trails are very risky affairs, even if the prosecutor’s evidence is not very good.

Below, we’ll talk more about the defense strategies a Hutchison assault attorney can employ in your case. But first, let’s discuss the five most common types of assault charges.

1. Child Abuse in Hutchinson and MN

Pretty much all child abuse and neglect issues are very subjective. For example, assume Cindy’s dad consistently lets her stay up late. So, she often falls asleep in school. In some contexts, especially a family law proceeding, Dad’s actions could be considered child endangerment.

That subjectivity extends to Minnesota Statute Section 609.377, which is the state’s main child abuse law. It applies if a parent, guardian, or legal caretaker:

  • Uses cruel discipline or unreasonable force
  • Which is excessive given all the circumstances.

That subjective definition could include just about anything. Corporal punishment is a good example, and as a Hutchinson criminal lawyer as well as a parent, I address this issue a lot. Some parents consider paddling or spanking cruel and excessive; other parents have no problem with it at all.

The alleged infraction, child’s age, and amount of force often control the outcome. There’s a difference between spanking Ben because he ran out into the street and spanking him because he forgot to wash behind his ears. Ben’s age makes a difference as well. A ten-year-old is usually held to a higher standard than a four-year-old. Finally, the number of force matters. Did Ben’s dad leave a red mark or cause a deep bruise?

If all three of these areas favor the defendant, it’s nearly impossible to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In borderline cases, Hutchinson criminal lawyers often try to plead these cases down to reckless conduct or another lesser-included offense.

2. Simple Assault in Hutchinson and Minnesota

Fifth-degree assault is the most commonly-charged assault case in McLeod County. First time assault is a misdemeanor, subsequent assault is usually a gross misdemeanor, and subsequent assault against the same alleged victim is usually a felony. The elements are:

  • Committing an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • Intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon another.

Note that injury, no matter how slight, is not an element of this offense. Note also that physical contact, no matter how slight, is not an element either. Hutchinson criminal lawyers have an easier time defending non-injury and/or non-contact cases. But prosecutors can and do still obtain convictions in these instances.

Assault and a few other cases, like theft, require lay witness testimony from an alleged victim. Unlike police officers, assault victims are not professional witnesses. Also unlike police officers, alleged victims are not always cooperative. In other cases, alleged victims relocate beyond the court’s jurisdiction, and prosecutors cannot subpoena or locate them.

Some states have lesser assault statutes which are essentially like traffic tickets. Minnesota really has no such law, so a Hutchinson criminal lawyer’s plea bargaining options are a little more limited. However, the aforementioned reckless conduct charge may be available if the prosecutor’s evidence is quite weak.

3. Domestic Assault in MN

Facially, this charge is pretty much the same as fifth-degree assault. However, domestic violence assault has a number of collateral consequences. For example, persons with domestic assault convictions have a very hard time getting a fair shake in family court, even if the incident occurred years ago and involved a different family. Additionally, many domestic violence victims obtain restraining orders, and these proceedings are quite complex.

An alleged victim cannot “drop” the charges under any circumstances. A person can say s/he does not want to pursue charges, but the prosecutor has the final call. If the prosecutor wants to go forward, the judge could issue a subpoena and force the victim to testify.

The domestic assault law only applies in certain situations, and some of them are very difficult to prove. The protected categories are:

  • Persons related by blood or marriage,
  • Current or former roommates, and
  • People who are involved in a significant romantic relationship.

Common-law marriage usually does not count. Furthermore, a single one night stand does not mean that two people are roommates or involved in a significant romantic relationship.

Especially if the victim is uncooperative, prosecutors are often willing to reduce charges to simple assault. That conviction does not have nearly as many collateral consequences. However, many prosecutors do not reduce charges under any circumstances. They’d rather die with their boots on.

4. Aggravated Assault in MN

In Minnesota, aggravated assault is an assault that causes temporary or permanent injuries. As the name suggests, aggravated assaults also include one or more aggravating factors.

An example of an aggravating factor is using a weapon during the assault. Aggravated assaults can be first-, second-, or third-degree assaults.

Third-degree aggravated assault typically applies to bodily harm inflicted against minors and children. However, assaults leading to “substantial bodily harm” (SBH) may also count as third-degree aggravated assault.

Second-degree assault is also known as assault with a weapon or assault with a deadly weapon. The elements are:

  • Dangerous Weapon: Under Minnesota law, pretty much anything other than a hand is a dangerous weapon. Increasingly, Hutchinson criminal lawyers see cases in which the hand is a dangerous weapon. That’s true in some really bad medical malpractice cases.
  • Substantial Bodily Harm: Essentially, SBH means that you put someone in the hospital and keep them there for at least a day.

First-degree aggravated assault occurs when one of two factors are present: great bodily harm (GBH) or aggravated assault against a police officer. Great bodily harm includes any injury conferring the likelihood of death, serious or permanent injury, and/or permanent impairment of a body part.

607.222 is not quite as serious if only one of the aggravating factors (dangerous weapon or SBH) is present. Again, some prosecutors will plead down aggravated assault cases to simple assault.

5. Vehicular Assault in Hutchinson and Minnesota

Prosecutors can press these charges if the defendant was grossly negligent and caused SBH, or if the defendant was negligent while under the influence of alcohol or another substance and caused SBH.

Minnesota Statute 609.2113 divides vehicular assault cases into three categories. These are vehicular assaults causing bodily harm (BH), substantial bodily harm (SBH), and great bodily harm (GBH).

Each category carries different penalties if convicted. BH brings about the least significant consequences, and GBH results in the most severe sentences.

If you’re convicted of vehicular assault causing BH, you may have to spend a year in jail and/or pay $3,000 in fines. Vehicular assaults causing SBH can earn offenders up to three years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. GBH carries the greatest penalty of up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

These cases are sometimes difficult to prove. A witness must place the defendant behind the wheel at the time of the crash. By the time emergency responders arrive, the defendant has usually exited the vehicle. But all bets are off if the defendant admitted driving the car. These statements are usually admissible.

This is why it’s critical to find an experienced assault defense attorney in Minnesota to defend your case.

What Are the Defenses a Hutchison Assault Attorney Can Use?

If you’ve received an assault charge, you need the best assault lawyer at your side. Yet, not just any defense attorney will do. You need a defense attorney who specializes in assaults and has the experience to show for it.

Why? An experienced attorney knows the defenses to use in your case, including how to beat a sexual assault charge. That way, you can potentially avoid the negative consequences that come with an assault conviction in Hutchinson, MN.

The False Allegation Defense

Studies show that over 2.5% of child abuse allegations are false. And the majority of these allegations come from parents making false claims about the abuse.

Though rare, false statements about child abuse clearly happen. In fact, child abuse accusations are surprisingly common during divorce and/or custody proceedings. So, many lawyers can use this defense to reduce or even eliminate child abuse charges against their clients.

This defense also applies to the other five assault cases we’ve discussed here. For example, if someone falsely accuses you of simple assault, your Hutchinson defense attorney can show that the allegations are false. If your lawyer can do that, you may be able to keep the case out of court and decide it during settlement.

The Self-Defense Defense in Hutchinson and Minnesota

Self-defense is the best affirmative defense in the book. Affirmative defenses admit that the offender did, in fact, commit the crime. However, a good defense attorney will argue that the assault was committed in self-defense.

For a court to believe the assailant was defending his or herself, the assault must have been necessary to avoid physical harm or injury. Defense of Others is also a viable defense in some assault cases. Ask your Hutchison criminal attorney if either of these defenses are available to you.

The Lack of Evidence Defense in MN

Lack of evidence is yet another common strategy Hutchison defense lawyers use against assault allegations. This defense relies on the fact that Minnesota courts have the burden of proof — not you and your Hutchison assault attorney.

In any assault case, the prosecutor must have evidence to prove your guilt. And this proof must show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So, the best assault lawyer will poke holes in the evidence to make the judge or jury doubt your guilt.

This defense is especially useful in cases where your lawyer can’t exactly prove your innocence. Instead, he or she will focus on showing that the opposition’s case is inadequate.

The Consent Defense in Hutchinson and Minnesota

According to Minnesota Statute 609.341, consent is a written or verbal agreement between two parties. The consent defense is arguably the most effective assault defense out there. It alleges that violence between two parties isn’t legal assault if both parties agree or consent to the use of physical force.

The consent defense works against almost any assault allegation. However, children cannot consent to violence until they are of the “age of consent” or, in general, 16 years of age. That means the consent defense isn’t applicable to cases of child abuse.

Work With Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers in Minnesota

All five types of assault are serious crimes in Hutchinson, Minnesota. A conviction could earn you jail or even prison time, and that’s not even to mention the hefty fines you’ll have to pay. However, working with a Hutchison assault attorney can help you avoid these consequences.

Were you recently charged with assault? All five types of assault cases have some valid defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

Originally published on February 18, 2019 and updated on October 26, 2021.