What is the Difference Between Assault and Domestic Assault?
Under Minnesota law, an assault can be one of two things: (1) either committing an act with the intent to cause fear of bodily harm (or death) in another person; or (2) intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon another person.
Qualifiable domestic violence-related offenses include (among others):
- Violations of orders for protection
- Assault in the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth degree
- Domestic Assault
- Domestic Assault by strangulation
- First through fifth degree criminal sexual conduct
- Malicious punishment of a child
- Terroristic threats
- Violation of a harassment restraining order
- Interference with an emergency 911 call
- Dissemination of private sexual images
- Violation of a domestic abuse no contact order
Under most circumstances an “assault” is a misdemeanor. However, under certain circumstances, a misdemeanor assault can be “enhanced” to a gross misdemeanor or a felony.
There are two situations in which an assault charge can be enhanced (or upgraded) to a gross misdemeanor offense. A gross misdemeanor assault is punishable by a jail sentence up to one year and for a fine up to $3,000.
- An assault within ten years of a previous domestic violence-related offense conviction or adjudication of delinquency on the same victim.
- The assault of any person within three years of a previous domestic violence-related offense or adjudication of delinquency.
There are also two situations in which an assault charge can be enhanced to a felony. A felony assault charge is punishable by a prison sentence up to five years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
- An assault of the same person within ten years of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions or adjudications of delinquency.
- The assault of another person within three years of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense conviction or adjudications of delinquency.
Simply put, the number of previous assault convictions and the identity of the person who is assaulted will determine whether the assault charge is enhanced to a gross misdemeanor or a felony.
Under Minnesota Law, a domestic assault can either be (1) committing an act with the intent to cause fear of bodily harm or death in a family or household member; or (2) intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon a family or household member. Therefore, the main difference between an assault and a domestic assault is the person against whom the acts are committed.
A family or household member includes:
- Spouses and former spouses
- Parents and children
- Persons related by blood
- Persons residing together or who have resided together in the past
- Person who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time
- A man and a woman if the man is alleged to be the father, regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time
- Persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship
As with non-domestic assaults, domestic assaults can be enhanced to a gross misdemeanor or a felony if there are prior convictions or delinquency adjudications. The penalties that apply are the same as a fifth-degree assault.
A misdemeanor domestic assault can be enhanced to a gross misdemeanor if it occurs within 10 years of a previous qualified domestic violence-related offense.
A misdemeanor domestic assault can be enhanced to a felony if it occurs within 10 years of two or more qualified domestic violence-related offenses.
It is important to note that normally, where an assault charge typically does not affect your rights to possess, use, transport, or receive firearms and ammunitions, a domestic assault charge does. While under State law the firearm has to have been used during the domestic assault in order for the court to order a prohibition from possessing any firearm, under Federal law, any conviction of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence leads to a lifetime ban from any use of firearms or ammunitions.