Qualified Domestic Violence Related Offenses - Felony Domestic Assaults

As we previously detailed in this blog, the type of offenses that are considered “qualified domestic violence related offenses” that enhance future domestic assault charges can be surprising. Why a bar fight assault conviction could lead to an immediate starting charge of a gross misdemeanor domestic assault eight years later seems odd. Odd as that may be, it’s clear that the State takes a hard-line approach to what counts for qualified domestic violence related offenses. And this most assuredly goes back to the public policy interests related to domestic violence cases.

Further supporting the State’s hard-line approach to this area is how one night, one incident, and two resulting domestic assault convictions can count as two qualified domestic violence related offenses for any future domestic assault cases within the next ten years. This is a surprising outcome because, typically, if convicted at trial for multiple offenses from the same incident, the defendant receives one punishment. After all, it was one bad night, with one bad set of decisions. One sentence seems just for the punitive measures imposed.

Despite this, the Court of Appeals found that the felony domestic assault statutory language – found in Minn. Stat. 609.2242 – is unambiguous with this result. For a felony domestic assault offense, it reads: “Whoever violates the provisions of this section … within ten years of the first of any combination of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions … is guilty of a felony.” It is the “any combination of two or more” language that leads the Court to conclude that even two convictions from one incident can suffice in making a subsequent domestic assault case a felony.

The impact this can have is rather dramatic. An example can best illustrate this. A husband and wife get into an argument that turns briefly physical. After taking the case to trial, the husband is convicted of both domestic assault-fear and domestic assault-harm – both of which are typically charged at the same time by city prosecutors. Nine years later, the same couple get into another argument. This time, it doesn’t turn physical. But the loud argument catches the attention of the neighbor who calls the cops. Cops come to the scene and arrest the husband for just a domestic assault-fear because there was no physical assault. Yet, despite the relatively bland nature of the incident, the husband is now facing a felony domestic assault charge due to the two convictions from the one incident nine years earlier. 

This example best explains why a domestic assault attorney is needed to fight on your behalf if you’re facing any level of a domestic assault charge. Even the first-time domestic assault misdemeanor case can lead to long-lasting consequences – from losing a job to now possibly facing a felony domestic assault for any subsequent offense within ten years. Understanding the nuance associated with what is considered a qualified domestic violence related offense and how that impacts your future is critical to mounting a successful defense.