Minnesota Domestic Violence Laws

The basics of Minnesota crimes and penalties for domestic assault, strangulation, OFP violations, and criminal stalking and harassment.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 02, 2024

In Minnesota, acts of domestic violence can result in criminal penalties, restraining orders, mandatory jail holds, and firearm restrictions, among other penalties. This article will discuss Minnesota's criminal and related penalties that aim to prevent and punish domestic violence crimes and protect victims.

What Is Domestic Abuse in Minnesota?

Minnesota defines domestic abuse as any of the following acts committed against a family or household member:

  • acts that cause physical harm or injury
  • acts that place another in fear of immediate physical harm, injury, or assault
  • terroristic threats
  • sexual assault or extortion, and
  • interference with an emergency call.

Family or household members include:

  • spouses and former spouses
  • parents and children
  • persons related by blood
  • persons who are living or have lived together
  • persons who share a child (including when pregnant), and
  • persons involved in a significant or sexual relationship.

Domestic abuse victims can ask a judge for an order for protection (OFP) that prohibits the abuser from contacting or harming the victim. This happens in civil court, although a violation of the order results in criminal charges.

If the abuser committed a crime, prosecutors may file criminal charges that can result in jail or prison time. The exact charges and penalties depend on the circumstances of the abuse. A judge will order a domestic abuse no-contact order (similar to an OFP) while the case is pending.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 629.75 (2024).)

What Are Domestic Violence Crimes in Minnesota?

Minnesota has several laws specific to crimes against family or household members, including domestic assault, domestic assault by strangulation, and violation of an OFP. Other commonly charged domestic violence offenses include terroristic threats, criminal sexual conduct, interference with emergency calls, harassment, and stalking, to name a few.

In Minnesota, these domestic violence-related offenses (and a number of others) count as prior convictions for the enhanced penalties described below. For repeat offenders, these priors can increase misdemeanor charges to felony-level offenses.

Below we review the crimes and penalties for domestic assault, domestic assault by strangulation, violation of an OFP, and criminal stalking and harassment.

What Are the Penalties for Domestic Assault in Minnesota?

Minnesota law defines assault as:

  • intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm on another, or
  • committing an act intending to place another in fear of immediate bodily harm or death.

When a person assaults a "family or household member," the crime is domestic assault.

Misdemeanor Domestic Assault

A defendant who commits domestic assault faces up to 90 days' jail time and a $1,000 fine. This misdemeanor offense bumps up to a gross misdemeanor if the offender has a prior domestic violence-related conviction within the past 10 years. A gross misdemeanor carries up to 364 days in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Felony Domestic Assault

Prosecutors can seek felony charges when the defendant has two or more prior domestic violence convictions, causes substantial or great bodily harm to a victim, or uses a deadly weapon. These felony convictions can land an offender in prison for 5 to 20 years depending on the circumstances.

If domestic abuse or assault results in the victim's death, the offender can face first- or second-degree murder charges and up to life in prison.

Felony Domestic Assault by Strangulation

A person who assaults a family or household member by strangulation can face up to three years in prison. However, if the offense causes substantial or great bodily harm or death, the harsher penalties described above apply. Strangulation includes applying pressure to the throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth to restrict another's normal breathing or circulation.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.2242, 609.2247 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Violating an Order for Protection (OFP) or No-Contact Order in Minnesota?

If a defendant is restrained by an OFP or domestic abuse no-contact order (sometimes called a DANCO), a first violation carries misdemeanor penalties of up to 90 days' jail time and a $1,000 fine. A defendant who has a prior domestic violence conviction faces 364 days in jail for a gross misdemeanor. A judge must impose a minimum 3-day sentence for a misdemeanor and a 10-day sentence for a gross misdemeanor.

Felony penalties apply if the defendant committed the violation with a dangerous weapon or has two or more prior convictions for domestic violence-related offenses. A felony conviction carries a 30-day minimum sentence and up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. On top of possible prison time and fines, a judge can make a defendant pay a bond that will be forfeited if another violation occurs.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 629.75 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Criminal Stalking and Harassment in Minnesota?

Criminal harassment and stalking carry misdemeanor and felony penalties in Minnesota.

Criminal Harassment

A person commits criminal harassment by placing another person in fear of substantial bodily harm to themself or a family or household member. To secure a conviction, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intended to injure, harass, or intimidate the victim and made threats, followed or monitored the victim, or repeatedly sent or posted electronic or other types of communications.

Criminal harassment is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days of jail time. However, a defendant who has a prior domestic violence-related conviction will face felony penalties of up to 5 or 10 years' incarceration.

Criminal Stalking

Criminal stalking occurs when a defendant terrorizes a victim or causes a victim to fear bodily harm by repeatedly committing acts of domestic assault, terroristic threats, interference with emergency calls, trespass, sexual assault, property damage, or OFP/DANCO violations. This crime is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000.

(Minn. Stat. § 609.749 (2024).)

Arrest, Bail, and Firearm Restrictions in Minnesota Domestic Violence Cases

On top of incarceration and fines, Minnesota law imposes the following conditions, restrictions, and penalties for domestic abuse.

Warrantless Arrests and Jail Holds

In Minnesota, an officer may arrest someone without a warrant when probable cause exists to believe the defendant committed domestic abuse within the past 72 hours. If the officer has reason to believe a person violated an OFP or no-contact order, the officer must arrest and hold the person in jail for at least 36 hours (unless released earlier by a judge).

Bail Conditions

When deciding conditions for pretrial release in domestic abuse cases, the judge must consider whether the defendant's release poses a threat of harm to the alleged victim or their family. The court can impose release conditions such as no-contact orders, removing the defendant from the victim's home, and prohibiting the defendant from possessing a firearm. Violating these conditions can result in arrest, detention, bail forfeiture, and additional criminal charges.

Firearm Restrictions

Any person subject to an OFP cannot possess a firearm while the order is in effect. If convicted of domestic assault, harassment, stalking, or violation of an OFP, a defendant is prohibited from possessing a firearm for three or more years. The court must order a defendant to forfeit (give up) any firearm used in the crime.

Violating the firearm prohibition is a gross misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $3,000. Federal firearm restrictions also apply.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 609.2242, 609.2243, 624.713, 629.341, 629.471, 629.72, 629.75 (2024).)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence or served with a petition for an OFP, you should contact a Minnesota criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney will be able to help you navigate the court system and help you obtain the best possible outcome for your case.

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