Domestic-related Criminal Statutes

Many crimes, or accusations of crime, can be considered “domestic crimes.”

The word “domestic” is understood to mean something of or related to the household or family.  It is common for crimes to be committed, by a person against someone they know, including their family.  It is also common for false claims to be made of crimes that never happened, by a person against someone they know, including their family.  Either way, the crime alleged can be labeled “domestic,” according to a statutory definition.  Many have a relationship element as part of the definition of the crime.

Some of these have the word “domestic” as part of the label the government has given the crime, such as “misdemeanor domestic assault.”  Other claimed crimes may be domestic in nature, or not, depending upon whether the government is claiming a person was a “victim” who had some special family, sexual, or living-arrangement relationship with the person accused.  A “5th degree domestic assault” charge, for example, could be charged in an alleged assault between strangers (non-domestic), or between a wife and husband (domestic).

Whether an alleged crime is domestic in nature can have important implications for the accused, the criminal defense lawyer, and the government’s prosecuting lawyer.  The consequences of the accusation or the conviction may be cruel and severe for the accused, for example deportation for a non-citizen “green card holder” convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault – causing fear (no bodily harm).  For the trial lawyers on both sides, the relationship between the proposed witnesses and the accused can have important practical implications.

After you have retained the best criminal defense attorney, it is important to learn about and understand the law, the elements of the crimes charged, and available defenses.  Here, top-rated Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Thomas Gallagher discusses some of the specifics of these Minnesota statutes and laws.

Here are some commonly charged criminal claims that are, or can be, “domestic-related:”

Felony Assault.
A Minnesota state “felony” is a crime with a maximum penalty of one-year-and-one-day or longer in prison.  Felony assault can be charged as first through fifth degree, depending upon various factors:

  • level of bodily harm alleged – great bodily harm, substantial bodily harm, bodily harm.
  • method of causing harm or fear – i.e., “strangulation” (this is often falsely charged where evidence is lacking).
  • status characteristics of the claimed “victim” – police officer, child under four, etc.
  • history of accused (claimed) – pattern of child abuse, prior convictions, same “victim,” etc.
  • specific intent of accused (claim) – motivated by prohibited bias such as race, sex, religion, etc.
  • use of a “dangerous weapon” (claim).
  • “domestic” relationship between the accused and the proposed prosecution witness.

Minnesota Statutes §609.221 “Assault in the First Degree.”
Minnesota Statutes §609.222 “Assault in the Second Degree.”
Minnesota Statutes §609.223 “Assault in the Third Degree.”
Minnesota Statutes §609.2231 “Assault in the Fourth Degree.”
Minnesota Statutes §609.224, subd. 4 “Assault in the Fifth Degree – Felony”
Minnesota Statutes §609.2247, “Domestic Assault by Strangulation.”

Misdemeanor Assault.
Misdemeanor assaults can include Gross Misdemeanor and simple Misdemeanor assault charges.  A Minnesota State “gross misdemeanor” is a crime with a maximum penalty of one year in jail.  A Minnesota State “misdemeanor” is a crime with a maximum penalty of 90 days jail.  It is rare to receive the maximum sentence, especially where the person has no prior record.  Gross Misdemeanor and simple Misdemeanor assault can be charged, depending upon various factors:

  • status characteristics of the “victim” – certain DNR employees, school official, etc.
  • specific intent of accused – motivated by prohibited bias such as race, sex, religion, etc.
  • “domestic” relationship between the accused and the proposed prosecution witness.
  • bodily harm, versus “an act with intent to cause fear.”

Minnesota Statutes §609.2231, subds. 2a, 4, 5, 6, 7, “Assault in the Fourth Degree.”
Minnesota Statutes §609.224, subds. 1, 2, “Assault in the Fifth Degree.”
Minnesota Statutes §609.2242, subds. 1, 2, “Domestic Assault.”

“Terroristic Threats.”
Another misleading title, “terroristic threats,” has nothing to do with terrorism, and could more accurately be called “threats.”  Until recent years, “threats are not enough” – the maxim taught to first year law students about assault – was the law.  Now we have a crime by this exaggerated, misleading name, which can be a felony or gross misdemeanor charge, most commonly in domestic scenarios.  It involves a claimed threat of violence plus, a claimed intent to terrorize another.

Minnesota Statutes §609.713, “Terroristic Threats.”

Interference with an Emergency Call (911 call).
This one can be a gross misdemeanor or a simple misdemeanor charge.  The most common scenario is in the context of a domestic discussion where one party hangs up, takes or disables a telephone being used to call a 911 emergency dispatcher.

Minnesota Statutes §609.78, subd. 2, “Interference with an Emergency Call.”

Minnesota Criminal Sexual Conduct.
Not all criminal sexual conduct prosecutions are “domestic” in nature, but many are.  Most of these crimes, from first through fifth degrees, are felonies and require sex offender registration if convicted of something (even a lesser charge like disorderly conduct).  See the sex crimes page on this website for more in-depth discussion.  “Domestic” crim sex cases generally have built-in questions about the veracity of the accuser and their motivation for pointing the finger of blame.  The factors that seem more relevant to domestic type “crim sex” cases include:

  • “significant relationship” between the accuser and the accused, defined by statute, includes blood and marriage-based relationships, as well as college roommates, for example.
  • “position of authority,” or an accused who has parental-type responsibility for the child.
  • penetration vs. sexual contact.

Minnesota Statutes §609.341 to §609.351. (Criminal Sexual Conduct statutes.)

Child Neglect or Endangerment.
This can be a felony or a gross misdemeanor crime.

  • Neglect includes willfully depriving basic necessities, likely to substantially harm the child’s well-being
  • or knowingly permitting sexual abuse.
  • Endangerment includes intentionally causing or permitting a situation likely to substantially harm child.
  • or where illegal drug use, sale, or manufacture.

Minnesota Statutes §609.378, “Child Neglect or Endangerment.”

Malicious Punishment of a Child.
This can be charged as a felony or gross misdemeanor depending upon various factors:

  • unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances.
  • prior convictions.
  • child under four.
  • level of bodily harm – substantial vs. great vs. bodily harm.

Minnesota Statutes §609.377, “Malicious Punishment of a Child.”

Stalking and Harassment crimes.
Stalking and Harassment crimes can be a felony or gross misdemeanor charge.  Typically the accuser and the accused know each other.  Factors include:

  • following or pursuing, in person or via technology.
  • including phone calls, mail, email, text messaging.
  • intentional conduct, knowing or reason to know,
  • conduct would cause “the victim” to feel frightened, persecuted, etc.
  • enhanced if various factors proven.
  • status characteristics of the “victim” – lawyer, judge, age under 18, etc.
  • possession of “dangerous weapon.”
  • specific intent of accused – motivated by prohibited bias such as race, sex, religion, etc.
  • history of accused – pattern of child abuse, prior convictions, same “victim,” etc.

Minnesota Statutes §609.749, “Stalking and Harassment crimes.”

Violation of an Order for Protection (OFP), or Harassment Restraining Order (HRO).
These crimes can be a felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor, depending upon various factors:

  • knowingly violate the terms of the order (OFP or HRO).
  • enhanced if various factors proven.
  • status characteristics of the “victim” – lawyer, judge, age under 18, etc.
  • possession of “dangerous weapon.”
  • specific intent of accused – motivated by prohibited bias such as race, sex, religion, etc.
  • history of accused – pattern of prior OFP, HRO violations, convictions, etc.

Other Consequences:

  • Firearm civil rights and property rights.
  • Carry permit gone.
  • Child custody factor.
  • Juvenile court & Child Protection case (CHIPS).
  • Employment and income stream problems (reduced child support may result as well).
  • Rental housing problems.
  • Civil rights loss for felonies.
  • Immigration law problems, including removal, deportation, bar to re-entry, for most domestic crimes, even misdemeanors.