Domestic abuse includes threats or acts of physical harm against a family or household member. 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. More information on civil protection orders can be found in our article on Minnesota Domestic Abuse Order for Protection.
Minnesota defines domestic abuse as any of the following acts committed against a family or household member:
Family or household members include:
(Minn. Stat. § 518B.01 (2022).)
One of the most commonly investigated and charged domestic violence crimes is domestic assault. Related domestic violence offenses include attempted strangulation, terroristic threats, criminal sexual assault, and stalking, to name a few. A violation of a civil order for protection (OFP) also constitutes a crime. In Minnesota, these domestic violence-related offenses (and a number of others) count as prior convictions for the enhanced penalties described below.
Minnesota law defines assault as:
When a person assaults a "family or household member," the crime is domestic assault.
Misdemeanors. 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 ten years. A gross misdemeanor carries up to 364 days in jail and a $3,000 fine.
Felonies. 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.
Murder. 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.
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.
If a defendant is restrained by an order for protection (OFP) or no-contact order, a violation of that order is a misdemeanor and carries 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.
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 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.
Criminal stalking occurs when a defendant terrorizes a victim or causes a victim to fear bodily harm by repeatedly committing acts of domestic assault or terroristic threats or violating protection orders. This crime is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000.
(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 609.224, 609.2242, 609.749 (2022).)
On top of incarceration and fines, the law imposes the following conditions, restrictions, and penalties for domestic abuse.
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).
When deciding conditions for pretrial release, 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.
While a criminal proceeding for domestic abuse is pending, the court can issue a domestic abuse no-contact order (DANCO) against the defendant. Penalties for violating a no-contact order are similar to those imposed for domestic assault and OFP violations (see above).
If a defendant is convicted of domestic assault or violation of an OFP, a defendant is prohibited from possessing a 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. 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 will also apply.
(Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01, 609.02, 609.03, 609.224, 609.2242, 609.2243, 609.2247, 629.341, 629.471, 629.72, 629.75 (2022).)
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.