Can A Father Be Charged With A Crime For Threatening His Son?


An alleged threat by a father against his son resulted in the father, Brian Benson of Mapleton, being charged with assault. Benson is reported as being charged with second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon after having allegedly pointed a gun at his son while threatening to shoot him if the son ever yelled at Benson again. So what makes this a second-degree assault (and the real possibility of going to prison) and what constitutes a dangerous weapon?

First of all, not surprisingly, a loaded firearm is considered a dangerous weapon under Minnesota law. However, even if Benson were to argue that he did point the gun as alleged but that the gun was not loaded, this would be insufficient; even an unloaded gun is a dangerous weapon. Other items that can constitute a dangerous weapon, in other cases, can include broken beer bottles, a professional boxer’s fists, and knives.

Criminal intent is also an element of a second-degree assault charge. An “assault” is defined as either an act done with intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm, or the attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another. Thus, a person can be convicted of assault even if they do not actually intent to cause bodily harm; causing the fear of harm is enough. Which type of intent the State will have to prove in its case against Benson will depend on what type of intent the State alleges Benson had.

Intoxication isn’t a defense to this type of assault charge per se, but intoxication can be argued to negate a required element of intent. So, for example, if the State alleges that someone committed an assault by doing an act with the intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm, and it appears the defendant in question says he was intoxicated at the time of the incident, the defendant could try to argue that his intoxication prevented him from forming the intent to cause fear.

Possible Sentences
Because the charge does not allege that Benson’s son suffered substantial bodily harm, the possible sentence for the offense is imprisonment for not more than seven years, or payment of a fine of not more than $14,000, or both. If the crime had resulted in substantial bodily harm, the prison term could have gone up to ten years and the fine to $20,000.

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