Minnesota Domestic Violence Laws

Domestic violence convictions carry serious consequences, including misdemeanor and felony penalties and restrictions on firearm possession.

Domestic assault in Minnesota involves an assault against a "family or household member." The penalties for domestic assault increase when the defendant has previously been convicted of a domestic violence-related offense. Violation of a protection order also carries criminal penalties.

For more information on assault crimes, see Minnesota Assault and Battery Laws, Minnesota Aggravated Assault Laws, and Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Minnesota.

Domestic Assault

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 bodily harm or death.

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

"Family and household members" include spouses, former spouses, parents and children, people related by blood, people who live together or have lived together, people in a significant or sexual relationship, people who have a child together, and pregnant women and the alleged fathers of their children.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 609.224, 609.2242 (2020).)

Penalties for Domestic Assault

Domestic assault starts off as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Defendants with prior convictions face harsher penalties.

Prior Domestic Violence Convictions

Both simple assault (not involving a family or household member) and domestic assault are punished more severely when the defendant has previously been convicted (in Minnesota or elsewhere) of a "qualified domestic violence-related offense."

Qualified domestic violence-related offenses (QDVROs) include murder, assault, domestic assault, criminal sexual conduct, terroristic threats, malicious punishment of a child, violation of a protection or restraining order, stalking, nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, or interfering with an emergency call.

For domestic assault, enhanced penalties apply whenever the defendant has committed a prior QDRVO in the past 10 years. Enhanced penalties for simple assault apply when a defendant has committed a prior QDVRO against:

  • the same victim in the past ten years, or
  • any victim in the past three years.

If the defendant has one prior conviction, the penalty increases to a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $3,000.

If the defendant has previously been convicted of two or more crimes of domestic violence, the penalty becomes a felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Domestic Assault by Strangulation

Domestic assault by strangulation or suffocation is a felony and carries a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Restrictions on Possession of Firearms

If a defendant is convicted of domestic assault, simple or aggravated assault against a family or household member, or violation of a protection order, a defendant is prohibited from possessing any firearm for three or more years. If the defendant used the firearm in the offense, the court must order the defendant to forfeit (give up) the firearm. A violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of $3,000.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 609.02, 609.03, 609.224, 609.2242, 609.2247 (2020).)

Protective Orders

A protective order is a court order requiring one person (the respondent/defendant) to stay away from or not contact another person (the petitioner/victim). There are two types of protective orders commonly issued in domestic violence cases: an order for protection (a civil court order that a victim can request) and a domestic violence no contact order (a criminal court order that the prosecutor requests).

Order for Protection (OFP)

In Minnesota, a civil protection order is called an Order for Protection or OFP. Even though an OFP is issued in civil court, a violation is handled in criminal court.

A person who knows of an OFP against them and violates it commits a misdemeanor. Repeat violations can result in gross misdemeanor or felony penalties.

Who Can Request an OFP?

Family and household members can file petitions for OFPs in civil court (there are no fees). If the OFP is sought to protect a child, the child’s guardian or a reputable adult age 25 or older can file a petition. A minor who is 16 or 17 can file a petition on their own behalf if the judge approves.

Once the petition is filed, the court must usually order a hearing within 14 days, but the hearing cannot be held less than five days after the respondent has been served with (received a copy of) the petition.

What Type of Relief Can the Court Order?

After the hearing, if the court finds domestic abuse exists, it may issue an order:

  • prohibiting the respondent from committing domestic abuse
  • excluding the respondent from the petitioner’s residence or workplace, a shared dwelling, and a reasonable surrounding area
  • prohibiting the respondent from contacting the petitioner
  • awarding temporary custody and visitation of minor children
  • awarding temporary spousal support or child support
  • mandating continued insurance coverage
  • awarding temporary possession of any pets and prohibiting the respondent from abusing any pets
  • if requested by the petitioner, providing counseling for the petitioner and respondent if they are married or have children
  • requiring counseling or treatment for respondent
  • requiring the respondent to pay restitution (repayment for costs incurred), and
  • mandating any other relief necessary for protection of the petitioner.

How Long Does an OFP Last?

The order remains in effect for up to two years. The court may extend the order for up to 50 years if the respondent appears to be a threat to the petitioner.

What Is an Ex Parte Order?

In certain circumstances, a judge can grant a temporary order for protection before holding a full hearing. The defendant does not receive notice and is not present when the judge issues the order. Known as “ex parte” (ex PAR-tay) orders, these are granted when the petitioner alleges an immediate danger of domestic abuse. Ex parte orders can:

  • prohibit the respondent from committing domestic abuse or contacting the petitioner
  • exclude the respondent from the petitioner’s residence or workplace
  • mandate continued insurance coverage, and
  • award temporary possession of any pets to petitioner or prohibit the respondent from abusing any pets.

An ex parte order is in effect only for a set time or until a hearing is held. Once served on the respondent, a violation of an ex parte order also constitutes a crime.

(Minn. Stat. § 518B.01 (2020).)

Domestic Abuse No Contact Order

In addition to an OFP (which can be issued by a judge in civil court), Minnesota law allows a criminal court judge to issue a "domestic abuse no contact order" at any time during a criminal proceeding for domestic abuse, stalking against a family or household member, or violating an OFP or domestic abuse no contact order.

A domestic abuse no contact order prohibits the defendant from contacting the victim and violating such an order is a misdemeanor. Similar to other domestic violence crimes, a defendant who violates the order within 10 years of a prior QDVRO faces gross misdemeanor or felony penalties.

(Minn. Stat. § 629.75 (2020).)

Arrests for Domestic Abuse and Protective Order Violations

In Minnesota, an officer can make an arrest without a warrant if there is reason to believe the defendant committed domestic abuse (assault, bodily injury, threats, criminal sexual conduct, or interference with an emergency call) against a family or household member within the past 72 hours.

If a police officer has reason to believe a person has violated a protective order or no contact order, the officer must arrest the person (and need not obtain a warrant) and hold the person in jail for at least 36 hours (unless released earlier by a judge).

(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 609.02, 629.341, 629.75 (2020).)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence or served with a petition for a protective order, you should contact a Minnesota criminal defense attorney immediately. A protective order or a criminal conviction can have serious consequences. 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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