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Harry: Lloyd, I can’t feel my fingers, they’re – they’re numb!

Lloyd: Oh, well, here. Take this extra pair of gloves, my hands are starting to get a little sweaty.

Harry: Extra gloves? You’ve had extra gloves this whole time?

Lloyd: Uh, yeah, we’re in the Rockies!

Harry: I’m gonna kill you![1]

Did Harry actually intend to kill Lloyd? No. Harry was experiencing transitory anger – or anger that is short-lived or temporary.

In Minnesota, transitory-anger can be a defense to a terroristic threats charge. It is not an affirmative defense in the statute.[2] But, the defense attorney can request that the judge instruct the jury on the defense at trial. Some courts may not allow the transitory-anger, or transient-anger, defense to be included in jury instructions.[3] Regardless of whether a judge allows it in the jury instructions, the transitory-anger defense can be a focal point for the defense’s theme at trial.

The purpose of the transitory-anger defense is to negate the element of intent in a terroristic threats charge. Under Minnesota law, terroristic threats requires an intent to terrorize another.[4] Prosecutors commonly charge someone with terroristic threats if someone is sending death threats to another person or repeatedly communicates to another person that they will harm them in some way. Not the mere transitory anger displayed by Harry in the example above.

It is incredibly easy for someone to get into trouble simply by the words they speak, as we discussed here. An assault can occur without any physical contact. The mere intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm in another person is a Fifth Degree Assault in Minnesota.[5] Similar to Terroristic Threats, Fifth Degree Assault does not include transitory anger as an affirmative defense in its statute. The defense is also rarely ever used in jury instructions in Fifth Degree Assault cases. But transitory-anger can conceivably negate the intent to cause fear of harm in another person; and may be a point of emphasis for the defense at trial.

Vetting all potential defenses in your case is crucial. Sometimes a flippant remark, or wanting to kill your best friend for not sharing their extra gloves with you in the Rocky Mountains, does not mean you had the intention of terrorizing that individual. A transitory-anger defense may be available.

For a free consultation, please contact the Ambrose Law Firm, PLLC at 651-800-4842 or email: ambroselegal@icloud.com.

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He is one of Minnesota’s “Ten Best” Criminal Defense Attorneys Under 40 for Client Satisfaction; and is a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer. St. Paul criminal defense lawyer; St. Paul criminal defense attorney; and criminal attorney St. Paul.

[1] Dumb and Dumber (New Line Cinema 1994).

[2] Minn. Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1.

[3] State v. Dick, 638 N.W.2d 486 (Minn. Ct. App. 2002); State v. Phillip, C8-02-1485 (Minn. Ct. App. filed Sept. 30, 2003).

[4] Minn. Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1.

[5] Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1(2).

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