Minnesota law distinguishes between assault and battery in private lawsuits. Minnesota’s criminal code on the other hand, does not distinguish between assault and battery. Instead criminal assault include both, differentiated by different degrees of assault.
Assault is defined in Minnesota as an act done with intent to cause another to fear immediate bodily harm or death or intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm on another. As explained below, assault is further broken down into degrees depending on whether injury is actually inflicted, the identity of the victim, the degree of injury and a host of other aggravating factors.
The different treatment of assault and battery between the civil and criminal systems can be confusing. For example, attacking someone with a knife is called assault in the criminal code and battery under the civil system. On the other hand, threatening to attack someone with a knife without actually doing so equals assault under both the criminal and civil codes.
Committing assault against a person and inflicting great bodily harm is assault in the first degree and can result in prison up to 20 years. “Great bodily harm” is legally defined as bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm. Assaulting an on duty police officer with or with the intent to use a deadly weapon is also first degree assault and the punishment is 10 to 20 years in prison.
Assault in the second degree involves assaulting another person with a dangerous weapon. If no substantial injury results than the maximum prison time is seven years. If substantial injury does result, than the offender can receive up to 10 years. A dangerous weapon is defined as any firearm or other weapon designed or capable of producing death or substantial bodily injury. Most items with a blade, for example, would be a dangerous weapon.
Assault in the third degree has a penalty of up to five years in prison and involves an assault where substantial bodily injury is received (but no weapon is involved). In addition, any assault to a minor under the age of four or assault on a minor by an individual with a pattern of assaulting minors is similarly an assault in the third degree.
Assault in the fourth degree involves assaulting a variety of different government officers ranging from police officers and firefighters to school officials. The maximum penalty is three years behind bars. Assault in the fifth degree is essentially assault without any other aggravating factors; the penalty is up to one year in prison.
If you have been charged with assault, you should contact an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced. You should contact an attorney right away. Depending on the legal intricacies of your case, an attorney may need ample time to prepare your case upfront and early on in order to fully and completely represent you and protect your rights. Doing so may result in a much more favorable outcome – which includes dismissing the entire criminal case or never even filing charges in the first place.