St. Paul, MN criminal defense attorney Robert Ambrose discusses what is considered the transitory anger defense.
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So the transitory anger defense is when somebody’s in the heat of the moment, they don’t necessarily have the intent to harm somebody. They’re in an argument maybe with their significant other, and they get in some sort of pushing match. And it never really meant to harm somebody. It’s just the transient of that anger and in the moment kind of negates the intent element. It’s actually something very difficult to get in as a jury instruction on an assault case, but assaults are intentional crimes. So you have to have the intent to harm somebody or the intent to put them in fear of harm for an assault. So sometimes people are like, “I never touched somebody. How am I being charged with an assault?” Well, that’s what’s called assault fear. Do you have the intent to put them in the fear of harm? So transitory anger is when you’re trying to get an instruction to negate the intent element. Oftentimes, judges will not allow you to have that in as a jury instruction, but if you can get it in, it’s a very persuasive tool to use in front of the jury to negate the intent element.