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  • Writer's picturePeter Lindstrom, Esq.

Fighting Your Brother: Can You Be Charged with Domestic Assault in Minnesota for it?

Updated: Jan 5

In the state of Minnesota, domestic assault is not limited to violence between spouses or intimate partners. It extends to harm or the threat of harm within family or household members, which includes siblings. It sometimes is absurd. I’ve seen domestic assault charged out where two brother in their young 20’s started wrestling each other where the extent of the injuries was only rug burn. It’s a situation that is so far removed from what people initially think when they hear the term domestic assault. But that is the way the law is written. Here is an exploration of how domestic assault charges can arise from sibling disputes and the legal nuances involved.

The Scope of Domestic Assault:

Minnesota law defines domestic assault as an act against a family or household member that is intended to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death, or intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the person. This definition explicitly includes family members related by blood, which means that physical altercations between siblings fall under the purview of domestic assault.

Sibling Fights and Legal Consequences:

A fight between siblings can indeed lead to domestic assault charges if it involves physical harm or the threat thereof. It's important to understand that even if the altercation seems minor, if the police are called to the scene, they have a duty to investigate. If there is probable cause to believe that domestic assault has occurred, an arrest can be made.

Common Misconceptions:

Many people mistakenly believe that a fight has to result in severe injury for charges to be filed, or that charges can only be applied when adults are involved. However, even minor physical contact or a credible threat can be enough for charges to be brought, and this applies regardless of whether the siblings are minors or adults.

Defending Against Charges:

When defending against domestic assault charges between siblings, several factors need to be considered:

1. The Intent:

Was there an intention to cause fear or harm, or was it a misunderstanding or a typical sibling scuffle? The normalcy of siblings getting into fights is well known. It is played up to comical proportions in the movie Step Brothers. Leveraging this common knowledge is usually an important part of developing a defense when siblings are involved.

2. The Evidence:

What physical evidence is there of the assault? Are there injuries, and what do they suggest about the nature of the fight?

3. Witness Accounts:

What do other family members or witnesses say about the altercation? Their testimonies can greatly influence the case's direction.

4. History of Violence:

Is there a history of convictions involving violence? Previous incidents can complicate the defense.

5. Self-Defense: Was the accused acting in self-defense? If so, this could be a viable defense strategy.

Legal Ramifications:

The legal ramifications of a domestic assault charge can be severe, including jail time, fines, and a criminal record that can impact future opportunities. The social stigma of a domestic assault conviction is onerous and in most situations is unwarranted given that sibling fights is an issue that is light years away from the problem of domestic violence.


Yes, you can be charged with domestic assault in Minnesota for fighting with your brother or sister. The law does not discriminate based on the type of relationship—if there is an assault within a familial context, charges can and often will be filed. As a criminal defense attorney, I advise anyone facing such charges to seek legal representation immediately to ensure their rights are protected. It's also important to consider that legal intervention might signal a need for family intervention or counseling to address underlying issues contributing to such conflicts.

Contact Subzero Criminal Defense and we may be able to start working on your case as soon as today. 651-248-5142. Subzero Criminal Defense provides a defense with intelligence, creativity, and grit.


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