The line between what makes a violent incident simple assault or domestic violence is not always clear. But the difference in charges can affect your rights regarding where you live and if you get to see your children.
Under Minnesota law, domestic violence or domestic abuse is defined as any of the following, depending on the relationship between the perpetrator and victim:
- Causing physical harm or fear of imminent harm
- Threatening a violent crime, such as through words or by brandishing a weapon
- Criminal sexual conduct
- Sexual extortion, which is forcing the victim to “comply” with a sex act
- Interfering with an emergency call, such as by preventing the victim from calling 911 or forcibly ending the call
The relationship between the perpetrator and victim is the key. To qualify for a domestic abuse charge, the perpetrator must be a member of the victim’s family or household member. The legal definition of “family or household member” is broader than in everyday life and includes:
- Current and former spouses
- Parents, children and other blood relatives
- Current and former co-habitants
- Someone you have a child with
- Someone with whom you are expecting a child
- Someone you are in a significant romantic/sexual relationship with or used to have one
For many people, the most important difference between a domestic abuse and assault charge is the order of protection, commonly known as a restraining order. Though obtaining an order of protection is a separate legal process from criminal proceedings, its terms could force you to move out of your home and prevent you from seeing your spouse or children.
With so much at stake, it is critical to contact a defense attorney as soon as possible after a domestic assault arrest.