In Minnesota, assaults that cause serious or substantial injury, and certain assaults against protected employees and children, are punished as felonies. Assaults that cause mere bodily injury or no injury are misdemeanors. For more information on misdemeanor crimes, see Assault and Battery Laws in Minnesota. For information on assaults committed with weapons, see Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Minnesota.
Under Minnesota’s laws, a person commits the crime of assault (sometimes called simple assault) by:
- intentionally inflicting bodily harm (injury)
- attempting to inflict bodily harm, or
- any act intended to cause fear of imminent bodily harm or death.
(Minn. Stat. § 609.02.)
Inflicting Great Bodily Harm
Any assault that inflicts great bodily harm constitutes first degree assault in Minnesota. Great bodily harm creates a serious risk of death, or causes permanent disfigurement or permanent or lasting impairment of any part of the body.
(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.02, 609.221.)
Hitting a person so hard that the person suffers bleeding in the brain would probably be considered great bodily harm.
Inflicting Substantial Bodily Harm
Any assault that inflicts substantial bodily harm is third degree assault. Substantial bodily harm includes fractures, and any injury that causes temporary disfigurement, or temporary but substantial impairment of any part of the body.
(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.02, 609.223.)
Substantial bodily harm is less serious than great bodily harm. For example, if a defendant broke someone’s pelvis and caused a temporary limp, that would be considered substantial bodily harm, but a permanent limp would be considered great bodily harm.
Under Minnesota’s laws, the crime of third degree assault is also committed when:
- the victim is under the age of four, and the defendant injures the child's head, eyes, or neck, or causes multiple bruises, or
- the victim is a minor and the defendant has engaged in a pattern of child abuse (acts that constitute assault, domestic assault, sexual assault, malicious punishment, child endangerment, child neglect, or threats) against the victim.
(Minn. Stat. § 609.223.)
Assaults Against Protected Employees
In Minnesota, it is a felony to assault a state hospital employee, law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or probation officer engaged in the performance of official duties if the defendant:
- inflicts demonstrable bodily harm (such as bruising or redness), or
- throws bodily fluids or feces.
Assaults against state hospital employees are punished as felonies only if the defendant is committed as a sexually dangerous person.
Felony assault is also committed by inflicting demonstrable bodily harm on the following protected employees, while the employee is engaged in the performance of job duties:
- municipal or volunteer firefighters
- emergency medical services personnel, and
- doctors, nurses, or other health care providers.
(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.02, 609.2231.)
Deadly force against law enforcement. A person also commits the crime of first degree assault by using (or attempting to use) deadly force against a law enforcement officer or correctional officer who is performing official duties. In using deadly force, the defendant intends to cause death or reasonably should know that there is a substantial risk of death or great bodily injury.
(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.066, 609.221.)
Strangling someone would also be an example of using force that is deadly.
Assaults by Inmates
Special sentencing rules (explained below) apply to assaults committed by inmates in state prison. (Minn. Stat. § 609.2232.)
Simple assault is punished as a felony in Minnesota when the defendant has previously been convicted of two (or more) qualified domestic violence-related offenses:
- against the victim in the past ten years,
- or against anyone in the past three years.
Qualified domestic violence-related offenses include murder, assault, domestic assault, criminal sexual conduct, threats, malicious punishment of a child, violating a restraining order, stalking, and interfering with an emergency call.
(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 609.02, 609.224.)
For more information, see Domestic Violence in Minnesota.
Under Minnesota’s laws, if a defendant commits a hate crime (an assault motivated by the victim’s, or another person’s, actual or perceived color, race, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or disability) and has previously been convicted in the past five years of a hate crime, then the crime is a felony.
(Minn. Stat. § 609.2231.)
First degree assault is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $30,000. If the defendant is convicted of using deadly force against a law enforcement officer, the court must sentence defendant to at least ten years and the defendant is not eligible for probation, parole, or release until serving the full sentence.
Third degree assault, including child abuse, and assault where the defendant has two or more prior convictions for domestic violence, is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
Assault against a law enforcement officer is punishable by three years’ imprisonment and fine of up to $6,000. Assault against other protected employees is punishable by two years’ imprisonment and fine of up to $4,000.
Hate crimes (where the defendant has previously been convicted of a hate crime) are punishable by up to one year and one day in prison, and fine of up to $3,000.
(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.221, 609.223, 609.2231, 609.224.)
Assaults by inmates. If an inmate in a state correctional facility is convicted of assault, the sentence must be served after the inmate has finished the original sentence, and the inmate must serve the sentence in state prison.
(Minn. Stat. § 609.2232.)
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
Being convicted of aggravated assault has serious consequences, including imprisonment, large fines, and a serious criminal record. If you are charged with felony assault, you should contact an attorney. A Minnesota criminal defense attorney will be able to help you navigate the legal system and obtain the best outcome in your case, such as a reduction or dismissal of the charges, a not guilty verdict, or a lighter sentence than the maximum allowed by law.