The United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. See U.S. Const. amend. II. This generally means that you have the right to own firearms. However, Minnesota law provides limitations on these rights and failing to abide by these limitations can result in serious criminal charges.
Many people know that convictions for certain crimes can render someone ineligible to vote. However, most do not realize the wide array of crimes that can result in the loss of firearm rights. Under Minnesota law, anyone who has been convicted of a crime of violence cannot ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition. This may seem like a straightforward concept, but there is more than initially meets the eye because of the unique way the state of Minnesota defines crimes of violence.
Minnesota Statute § 624.712 subd. 5 defines crimes of violence. The definition includes many offenses one would expect to find, like murder, manslaughter, assault, and robbery crimes, but also includes offenses like theft and controlled substance crimes. This means that someone who has only been convicted of drug offenses could be considered to have a conviction for a crime of violence and be prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.
Firearm possession by an ineligible person is a serious criminal offense that can result in a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines. There may be defenses to this charge, especially if you have had your rights restored. A criminal defense attorney is in the best position to evaluate your defenses and help you avoid a conviction for this serious offense.
Minnesota Statute § 609.66 describes several ways to commit an offense by the way someone handles a firearm. Specifically, it makes it a crime to recklessly handle a gun, dangerous weapon, or explosive to endanger the safety of others. It also makes it a crime to intentionally point a gun capable of injuring or killing at another person whether the weapon is loaded or not. Depending on where the offense occurs, it can result in a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charge.
Minnesota law makes it a felony to intentionally discharge a firearm when it endangers the safety of others or when someone recklessly discharges a firearm within city limits. A conviction for these offenses can result in imprisonment for up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
It is important to note that these are just some of the ways to be charged with a firearm crime under Minn. Stat. § 609.66. Just because you do not believe your conduct is described here does not mean you have a defense. Only a lawyer can properly advise you of your possible defenses.
While the statute above makes it unlawful to handle and use a firearm in certain ways, it is also possible to violate Minnesota’s firearm laws while not actually handling them. On such way is by negligently storing them. This means that it is a crime to store a loaded firearm in a way that could result in someone under the age of 18 gaining access to it. If you are convicted of this gross misdemeanor offense you can be sentenced to up to one year in jail and/or up to $3,000 in fines.
United States Code, title 26, section 5842 requires that firearms in the U.S. have a serial number or some other identifying number on them so that they can be tracked. Minnesota law makes it an offense to destroy or alter the serial or identification number. Further, you can be convicted even if you did not alter the number because it is also an offense to simply possess a firearm with an altered or destroyed number. It is also a crime to possess a firearm that does not have a number. A conviction for any of these actions is a felony and can result in up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If you have been charged with a firearms offense in Minnesota, you could be facing significant jail or prison time as well as heavy fines and fees. Further, you could also face collateral consequences such as forfeiture of your firearm and loss of the right to possess firearms and ammunition. However, there may be defenses available. Contact the BK Law Group for a free consultation regarding your firearm or other criminal charge.