Arrested for Felony Assault: But What if You’re Innocent?

The legal system treats crimes against the person as being more serious than crimes against property. Mutual combatants or victims of assaults who choose to defend themselves are often swept up in a law enforcement fervor when trying to clear the charge.

Assaults are often charged as felonies and offenders face stiff penalties if caught. Anyone wrongfully arrested for assault should invoke their right to remain silent and seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Minnesota defense attorney Kevin W DeVore of the DeVore Law Office puts it succinctly: “Do not make the mistake of underestimating the seriousness of being charged with felony assault. The reality is that the penalties associated with a conviction in this type of case can be extreme.”

What Is An Assault?

Under Minnesota Statutes § 609.02, assault occurs where one actor intends to inflict bodily harm upon another or actually causes such harm and where the actor acts intending to place another person in fear of immediate bodily harm or death. The actor must have the intent to achieve that result or cause that injury; accidents are not assaults.

Minnesota divides assault into five different degrees depending upon the severity of the injury inflicted, the nature of the alleged victim, the actor’s intent, and whether the actor used any weapons. The law also provides other penalties for domestic abuse and additional penalties for repeated offenses. Depending upon the specific charge, assault may be a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a felony.

What Happens If I Am Arrested And Convicted Of Assault?

Anyone arrested for an assault will be taken to jail and booked on the charge. A judge will set the bail and defendants will be provided the opportunity to pay it directly or use the services of a bail bondsman. An arraignment will also occur within 36 hours of the arrest. At the arraignment, defendants will be assigned a public defender in the event that they do not have an attorney already. If the charges are not dismissed or if the defendant does not plead guilty, a trial will follow.

If convicted of a felonious assault, the sentence can be serious. Assault in the First Degree carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. While the sentence is likely to be much less in the absence of aggravating circumstances, any felony conviction is no laughing matter. Obtaining employment in skilled positions in the future will be difficult, certain civil rights will be lost, and future encounters with law enforcement are likely to result in heightened scrutiny.

I’m Innocent! What Should I Do If I Am Arrested?

Innocence or guilt has little bearing on what someone should do when they are arrested. Most attorneys will advise clients to remain silent during a police encounter except to affirmatively invoke their rights under the Bill of Rights. In the recent case of Salinas v. Texas, the Supreme Court held that mere silence does not constitute an invocation of one’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Defendants must actually invoke their rights to receive protection.

Remaining silent can be particularly difficult in the face of a wrongful arrest and the pertinent allegations. Many people will proclaim their innocence and attempt to explain the situation to the best of their knowledge. Such admissions can be harmful to one’s case, as they often contain statements that are easily twisted into a light that is unfavorable to the defendant. Arguing that a haymaker was really more of a push is not an exculpatory statement; it is an admission of guilt in the eyes of the police. When in doubt, say nothing. There will be plenty of time to raise affirmative defenses later.

Contact a lawyer as soon as possible after you are arrested and explain the situation. Individuals accused of assault may be innocent in a few different ways. The assault may have been justifiable, such as in the case of self-defense. The actor may not have intended to cause harmful contact. Alternatively, the arrested party did not cause any such harm and the arrest was a case of mistaken identity. Regardless of how the defendant came to be arrested, the attorney must have the full truth to mount a legal defense.

Freelance writer Richard Freeland shares this discussion on surviving a felony assault charge with those interested in the process. DeVore Law Office is a Minnesota assault attorney firm with the experience and the proven track record necessary to provide their clients with the powerful legal representation they’ll need if they’ve have been charged with felony assault.

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