Criminal Defense Practice

Minnesota Domestic Abuse Defense Lawyer:
Protecting Your Rights and Future

Understanding Domestic assault
and Your Legal Rights in Minnesota

Minnesota Domestic Abuse Defense Lawyer

In Minnesota, domestic violence is defined as “physical harm, assault, or bodily injury; infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, assault, or bodily harm; or terroristic threats, criminal sexual conduct, sexual extortion, or interference with an emergency call against a household or family member by a family or household member.”

Whether abuse takes a physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or other form, the foundation of domestic violence is worsening controlling behaviors.

Physical abuse could include hitting, slapping, punching, or kicking; the use of weapons; coercing a partner into substance abuse; and refusing medical care and/or controlling medication. Those who experience emotional abuse endure a partner seeking control by insulting; shaming and humiliating; isolation; stalking; and controlling the partner’s activities and whereabouts.

Forms of sexual abuse can include human trafficking; physical harm during sex; and pursuing or forcing sex when a partner is not conscious or able to give consent.

Manipulating a partner to gain power through finances may include damaging credit scores; harassing a partner at their workplace; causing physical harm that would prevent them from working; and controlling financial assets.

Why Choose Us As Your Minnesota Domestic Abuse Defense Lawyer?

Sterle Law aims to work with anyone who has been accused of domestic violence of any form with compassion, understanding this is a fraught period in their life and a complex legal process.

We work closely with you to craft strategic and personalized approaches to your defense, closely communicating with you throughout the entire process to ensure your satisfaction. With our experience, we have successfully dismissed cases, reduced domestic assault charges, and protected our clients’ rights and futures. 

It is important to understand the complexities of the legal system concerning domestic violence. We provide a brief guide to navigating domestic assault charges in Minnesota below.

According to Minnesota Statute § 609.2242, a person can be charged with domestic assault if they inflict or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon a member of their family or household.

By legal definition, family members include parents of children, blood relatives, former and current spouses, the parents of a child, those who currently or have resided together in the past, and those involved in a significant or romantic relationship. 

Domestic violence cases often deal with minimal evidence, and the situations that led to the charges often occurred in private, so there tends to be a lack of witnesses.

Differences Between Domestic Assault Charges

In the state of Minnesota, domestic assaults are considered “enhanceable” offenses: should someone be convicted of domestic assault, future assault or “qualified domestic violence-related offenses” will be treated more harshly – longer jail sentences or probation periods.

Misdemeanor Domestic Assault

For a first-time offense, or if the alleged perpetrator does not have a “qualified domestic violence-related” conviction within the past 10 years, they will typically be charged with misdemeanor domestic assault. The charge is punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Gross Misdemeanor Domestic Assault

Should the defendant have a previous “qualified domestic violence-related” conviction on their record within the last 10 years, they would likely be charged with gross misdemeanor domestic assault. A conviction will lead to a $3,000 fine and/or one year in jail.

Felony Domestic Assault

If there are two or more “qualified domestic violence-related” convictions on a defendant’s record in the past 10 years, they will be charged with felony domestic assault, which is punishable by five years maximum in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine.

What Are Qualified Domestic Violence-Related Offenses in Minnesota

The following are qualified domestic violence-related offenses under Minnesota Statute §609.02, Subd. 16:

  • Murder in the first and second degree
  • Assault in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth degree
  • Violation of a domestic violence order for protection
  • Violation of a domestic violence no contact order (DANCO)
  • Domestic assault
  • Domestic assault by strangulation
  • Malicious punishment of a child
  • Terroristic threats
  • Criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, third, or fourth degree
  • Violation of a harassment restraining order
  • Stalking
  • Interference with an emergency call

Anyone with a history of these convictions who commits a domestic assault will face “enhanced” domestic assault charges and penalties – longer probation periods and jail sentences. Contact a Minnesota domestic violence defense lawyer for more information. 

Navigating the Legal System After Domestic Abuse Charges

If you are arrested or charged with domestic violence, you should immediately secure legal counsel with a Minnesota domestic abuse defense lawyer to assist you in navigating the legal process. The earlier our team at Sterle Law is involved, the easier it is for us to collect evidence to support your defense.

You can expect to encounter the following steps in the legal process in Minnesota:


An arrest will be made if you are suspected of domestic violence, harassment/stalking, violation of a no-contact order, or violation of an OFP.


You will then be subject to a pre-trial bail evaluation. If you are not released on citation, a judge will review the facts surrounding your arrest and detention during a pretrial release hearing.

At this time, the prosecution will provide an account from the victim about the alleged crime, and the judge will determine your pre-trial release conditions. 

If it is determined your release is not advisable, the judge may impose bail or set conditions for your release to protect the victim (e.g., no contact orders), as well as set parameters to ensure your appearance at future proceedings.

Victim Notice Provisions

At this time, a peace officer will inform the victim of shelters or other resources available to them, as well as a notice of their legal rights. An alleged victim will also receive notices regarding bail hearings and your release from pretrial detention.

Admission of Evidence

While evidence of other crimes or acts is not admissible in a domestic violence case, some evidence of domestic conduct by the accused against the victim or other family/household members is.

Expert testimony on battered woman syndrome is also accepted for domestic violence cases.

Omnibus Hearing

During this hearing, a judge will determine if there is enough evidence to take this case to court. If it does go to trial, the defendant will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

This hearing is also an opportunity to discuss plea bargains and the reduction of domestic violence charges.


The case may be heard before a jury or by a judge depending on the defendant’s preference.

You have the right not to testify during a trial, and the prosecutor must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


A guilty conviction will lead to sentencing during which the judge will consider Minnesota’s Sentencing Guidelines, the recommendations from a pre-sentence investigation (PSI), and arguments from our team and the prosecution.

Order for Protection

Through an order for protection (OFP), a person can receive a court order to cease household or family violence by ordering the abuser to receive counseling or treatment or to stay away from the family or family home.

These orders, which are not criminal cases, are administered through family court. OFPs also include orders relating to custody, child support, and visitation. There are legal ramifications if the abuser violates an OFP.

Impact of Domestic assault Charges On Your Life

A domestic violence charge is classified as a misdemeanor offense, with a sentence of up to one year in jail. A gross misdemeanor charge is likely if a repeat offense is committed within 10 years.

Gross misdemeanor charges are punishable by a $3,000 fine and a one-year prison sentence. Should a third offense occur within 10 years, the perpetrator will be charged with a felony offense, which will result in a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison. 

There may be additional ramifications for a domestic violence conviction, including relinquishing firearms. This consequence is particularly true for those convicted of domestic assault, domestic assault by strangulation, or assault in the first through fifth degrees against a household or family member and if there was a firearm used in the assault. 

Additionally, penalties may include community service, restraining orders, domestic violence counseling, probation, anger management programs, restitution, and psychological evaluation. 

The legal ramifications will have a lasting impact on your personal and professional life. You may face complications securing jobs or loans and it may jeopardize your parental and custody rights. 

“Patience is the strength of the weak, impatience is the weakness of the strong”

Immanuel Kant