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Can I Own a Firearm?

With firearm laws potentially changing, individuals with any criminal history are concerned if they can own or poses a firearm. This seemingly simple question requires a complex answer that is not only on Federal Law but also in Minnesota Law.

Federal Law

Congress passed the first blanket prohibition on felons carrying guns in the Gun Control Act of 1968, which made it illegal for felons to possess a gun any under circumstances. Federal statute now prohibits possession of firearms for anyone who has been “convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (2012).

Minnesota Law

Minnesota law further complicates the issue. A ban of firearm possession does not have to be a felony conviction as under Federal law. Minnesota law has outlined what they consider crimes of violence that would prohibit ownership or possession of a firearm. These crimes include the obvious such as a murder conviction to the less known such as riot.

This loss of firearm rights can take place even with a non-conviction such as a stay of adjudication (a non conviction under Minnesota law). The Eleventh Circuit, interpreting Florida law, determined that a guilty plea followed by a withholding of adjudication amounted to a “conviction” in applying federal statutes. U.S. v. Orellanes, 809 F.2d 1526, 1528 (11th Cir. 1987). This is similar to how stay of adjudications operate in Minnesota and accordingly could trigger § 922(g)(1).

What if I received an expungement?

“An order expunging the record of a conviction for a crime of violence…must provide that the person is not entitled to ship, transport, possess, or receive a firearm for the remainder of the person’s lifetime.” Minn. Stat. § 609A.03, subd. 5a (2012). An expungement may only muddle the water in attempting to own or poses a firearm. If you attempt to expunge a stay of adjudication, the Minnesota Judicial Branch implies that a stay of adjudication is a conviction for expungement purposes.

Just when you think all hope is lost Minnesota case law does allow ownership of firearms in certain circumstances. These circumstances need to be evaluated after a complete review of an individual’s criminal history and the applicable law.