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Understanding Violent Crime Defense

Police units respond on scene.

Violent crimes are crimes that involve inflicting physical harm or threatening to inflict physical harm upon someone else. A violent crime can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The severity of the punishment for a violent crime will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of the violence that was inflicted, the severity of the victim’s injuries, and whether the victim is entitled to special legal protections, such as police officers, medical or emergency personnel, the elderly, and pregnant women.

How Is a Violent Crime Different From a Non-Violent crime? 

Violent crimes typically involve willful or intentional conduct, as opposed to harm that is caused accidentally. They include crimes where violence is the goal, such as murder or rape, as well as crimes where violence is used as a means to an end, such as in the case of robbery. A person can be charged with a violent crime even if the person was not actually injured. 

Examples of violent crimes include:

  • Assault and battery
  • Manslaughter and murder
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery

Other times, non-violent crimes can be charged as violent crimes if they result in injury or death to someone. For example, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is not usually considered a violent crime. However, if someone is driving under the influence and is involved in an accident that seriously injures or kills someone else, the DUI may be charged as a violent crime and prosecuted much more severely. The potential severity of the punishment for a violent crime conviction will depend, therefore, on how seriously the victim was injured.

How Are Violent Crimes Punished?

When sentencing someone who has been convicted of a violent crime, courts will consider the nature of the crime and the severity of the victim’s injuries. Courts will also consider aggravating factors such as whether a weapon was used and the characteristics of the victim. Violent crimes that involve the use of a weapon are prosecuted more aggressively and punished more severely, many with harsh mandatory minimum prison penalties. Similarly, violent crimes that are committed against certain classes of people, such as police officers, emergency or medical personnel, the elderly, or pregnant women will be punished more severely than if the crime was committed against someone else. 

Less serious violent crimes may be charged as a misdemeanor, while more serious violent crimes are prosecuted as a felony. 

Defenses to Charges of Violent Crimes

Defending someone accused of committing a violent crime will depend, of course, on the unique circumstance of the situation. Nonetheless, common defenses to allegations of violent crimes include:

  • Self Defense. A defendant can claim self defense if he caused bodily injury to another person in defense of himself or someone else. For this defense to be viable, the use of force must be proportionate to the amount of force used by the attacker. These defenses are incredibly fact specific, but incredibly powerful defenses. 
  • Mistake can be used as a defense to a violent crime if it negates an element of the crime, such as if the defendant did not understand that his actions were wrong. This defense can be used if the defendant was acting under a misunderstanding at the time the crime was committed, and is typically used to negate an element of the crime.
  • If a defendant was intoxicated when a crime was committed, the defendant may be able to negate or mitigate the criminal intent element of a violent crime charge. For example, someone charged with murder may be able to claim that they were so intoxicated that they were unable to form the necessary intent to commit murder. However, that person may be charged with a lesser crime. This defense is not often used as a complete defense; rather, a claim of intoxication can be used to argue that a lesser charge is more appropriate.

Perhaps the most common defense against allegations of a violent crime is to claim that the crime did not occur, or that the defendant did not do it. For example, someone charged with rape may claim that the sex was consensual and that no crime occurred. Or, a defendant may argue that a rape did occur, but someone else did it.  

Statute of Limitations as a Defense to Violent Crime Charges in North Dakota

A statute of limitations specifies the amount of time within which someone must take legal action if they intend to do so. In criminal cases, a statute of limitations sets the amount of time the government has to bring criminal charges after a crime has been committed. If the government fails to bring the criminal charges within that time frame, a defendant can claim the statute of limitations a defense.

The statute of limitations for most violent crimes in North Dakota is three years. Notable exceptions include gross sexual imposition, which has a seven-year statute of limitations in certain circumstances, and murder, which has no statute of limitations.

Fremstad Law—Violent Crime Defense in North Dakota

If you have been charged with a violent crime in North Dakota, you need an experienced and aggressive attorney on your side who will carefully and thoughtful evaluate the evidence against you, and provide a forceful and aggressive defense.

At Fremstad Law, criminal defense attorney Nick Thornton has been defending people accused of violent crimes in North Dakota since 2006. He has defended thousands of people who have been accused of criminal activity, and is passionate about seeing that justice is served.

If you are facing violent crime charges in North Dakota, the Fargo criminal defense attorneys at Fremstad Law are here to help. Contact us today to learn how we can help move you forward.