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Defenses And Plea Agreements

Assault charges can be difficult to defend, especially when the victim is injured as a result of a physical act. However, Minnesota does give defendants the opportunity to raise a self-defense argument. This is called an “affirmative defense”.  In order to raise this defense at trial, the defendant must notify the court and the prosecution of the intent to rely on that defense.

The Self-Defense Claim

There are four elements to a successful self-defense claim:

  • The absence of provocation or aggression on the part of the person wishing to raise self-defense.
  • An actual and honest belief that imminent death or great bodily would have occurred, resulting in self-defense.
  • A reasonable base existed for the actual and honest belief that there was a threat.
  • The absence of a reasonable means to retreat or otherwise avoid the physical conflict.

If there is a reasonable means to walk away from a violent situation, you must do so or the self-defense option will not be viable.

In addition, a person can only use a reasonable amount of force under the circumstances to deflect the threat. For example, if a person is clenching their firsts and threatening to hit you, it is unreasonable to pull out a gun and shoot them. The common denominator in self-defense cases is that the threat can only be stopped by “reasonable” force.  If a person pulls a knife, it’s reasonable to defend yourself with a knife.  If a person pulls a gun, it’s reasonable to defend yourself with a gun.  If a person only threatens to punch you, more often than not it is only reasonable for you to defend yourself with a punch.

Plea Agreement Strategy

Many times, assault cases end in a plea agreement. Sometimes, negotiation can result in a dismissal of the assault charge in exchange for a plea to a lesser offense.  It is not unusual for a Misdemeanor assault charge to be reduced to a disorderly conduct. Having an assault on your record can make it difficult to get a job, rent a home, or go back to school. Disorderly conduct may not have those same ramifications. In addition, assault charges are enhanceable, meaning that subsequent assault convictions are treated more seriously.

Stay of Adjudication

A Stay of Adjudication is a procedure that can be used to the benefit of an individual who is charged with assault.  In such a scenario, the defendant pleads guilty but the judge doesn’t accept it the plea. Instead, the judge places a person on probation for a certain time period, with certain conditions that must be met. At the end of that period, if the conditions are satisfied, no conviction appears on your record whatsoever.

Continuance for Dismissal

Another strategy that can be used in assault cases is called a Continuance of Dismissal. The prosecution agrees to “continue” the case for a certain time period with certain conditions. At the end of the period, if the conditions are satisfied, the charges are dismissed. The difference between this and Stay of Adjudication is that, with a Continuance of Dismissal disposition, a plea or admission is never entered.

Contact A Minnesota Assault Lawyer

Carson J. Heefner has over 20 years experience representing individuals charged with assault offense.  If you or someone you know has been charged with assault, contact Carson at 612-202-8971 or for a free consultation.