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When domestic violence can end up in criminal court

Allegations of assault within the home may often involve a crime related to domestic violence. As such, the results of the allegation may extend further than a civil restraining order. One may find him or herself the subject of criminal charges, even if false, that could result in a prison term and a criminal record.

Under Minnesota’s criminal code, Section 609.2242 covers the crime of domestic assault.

This section dictates that one has committed a misdemeanor if his or her intended action is to create fear of imminent physical harm or death in a family member.

Who is a “family member”

The criminal code borrows, for purposes of defining who may constitute a family member, the definition used in the Domestic Relations Act, Section 518B.01. According to that section, the family or household members can include the following:

  • Spouses and ex-spouses of the defendant
  • Children and parents of the defendant
  • Any person related by blood, such as siblings
  • House-mates or past house-mates
  • Co-parent to a child of defendant
  • Pregnant woman if defendant is the alleged father

Lastly, anyone with whom the defendant is romantically or sexually involved with is a covered family member for the purposes of domestic assault crimes.

It is also a violation if he or she purposely does exact or does attempt to exact bodily harm on someone in the family.

Effects of the 10-year look-back window

If the violation is a second offense within 10 years, the defendant may be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. That gross misdemeanor can land the defendant in prison for up to one year, and a fine of up to $3,000.

However, if the defendant’s current charged action is at least his or her third offense, and it has occurred within 10 years of the first such act of the prior two acts, then the current action may be a felony. This felony can result in incarceration for up to five years and a $10,000 fine.

The complications with firearms

Typically, if a firearm was involved in the assault, the defendant will be forfeiting that firearm. The defendant may also be legally proscribed from ever possessing a firearm again in his or her lifetime.

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