Stand Your Ground Gains Ground in Minnesota

In Minnesota, 36.7% of citizens own firearms and the State of Minnesota is debating adoption of “Stand Your Ground” legislation so that individuals can use these weapons to protect themselves from violent crimes. If passed, Minnesota would become the 34th “Stand Your Ground” state.

OPEN CARRY AND CONCEAL CARRY

Minnesota allows permitted individuals to openly carry a weapon while they are in public. These permits may be issued only for handguns. Those who carry long guns in public can be convicted of a gross misdemeanor. If the long gun is a semi-automatic military style weapon, the individual can be convicted of a felony charge.

Open Carry Permits are issued by the county sheriff and can cost up to $100. To qualify, individuals must obtain a permit by passing a background check and completing a firearms safety course within one year of their application.

Individuals with felony criminal records including assault and robbery or misdemeanors including drug possession, individuals listed as belonging to gangs, and applicants under the age of 21 are not allowed to obtain permits.

As of 2015, there were 210,000 permit holders in Minnesota. These individuals are not allowed to carry their weapons on school property or at daycare centers, at correctional facilities, within courthouses, within, state or federal building, or within private establishments that have posted signs prohibiting weapons.

CASTLE DOCTRINE

State statute allows individuals to use deadly force in order to protect themselves, their families, or guests within their own residence. This protection does not apply to areas outside the home including driveways, lawns, sidewalks, etc. that are adjacent to the home.

It is important to remember that Minnesota does not have an official “castle doctrine” in place. This means that it is currently possible for an individual to defend themselves from felony crime within their home and then face criminal charges for their actions which were initiated in self-defense.

In this regard, a common threshold prosecutors have followed when deciding to pursue charges is whether the homeowner stopped shooting when the threat was eliminated either by disabling the intruder or scaring them away.

Another threshold prosecutors review is whether the individual had the ability to avoid the use of reasonable force by retreating from the situation. The “duty to retreat” provision within existing state statute requires individuals facing an imminent threat to retreat whenever possible and practical.

This means that if a retreat is possible, the individual must escape the threat or face the possibility of prosecution. This creates a considerable amount of ambiguity wherein individuals can be prosecuted for not escaping even though any avenues or possibility of escape may not have been clear during events as they unfolded.

STAND YOUR GROUND IN MINNESOTA

The Minnesota House is currently debating legislation that would update the state’s self-defense laws to include “Stand Your Ground” provisions. HF 238 would allow individuals to utilize deadly force to stop the commission of a felony crime taking place within their own home. Instances warranting the use of deadly force by a homeowner would include:

  • Resisting the entry of an intruder into the home
  • Resisting an imminent threat to an individual or occupant of the home
  • Resisting the commission of a forcible felony such as rape, assault, etc.

The law removes the existing need to retreat once a threat has been subdued and would allow homeowners to use disproportional force in response to aggravated assault. In other words, if the attacker has a knife, the homeowner can use their gun without fear of prosecution as long as it is clear that the level of force used was solely for the purpose of self-defense.

The law also assumes a presumption that a person unlawfully entering a residence is doing so with the intent to use life-threatening force. This removes any ambiguity regarding the intruder’s intentions. Moreover, the law extends clarifications and protections supported by many criminal defense attorneys for individuals who may find themselves in self-defense situations within a vehicle such as their own car, RV, or camper.

CURRENT STATUS OF HF 238

Hf 238 has recently passed the House Public Safety Committee by a 9 to 6 vote. This means that it will now move to the full House for discussion. Currently, the Senate has not scheduled a hearing to debate the legislation.

These debates are expected to take place during the current legislative session. If both chambers pass HF 238, it would make Minnesota the 34th state to have a Stand Your Ground Law. Upon passage, it would then go to Governor Dayton to be signed. However, the governor vetoed a similar bill that was presented in 2013 stating that the adoption of a Stand Your Ground Law was unnecessary because residents already have self-defense rights.

Should Governor Dayton veto HF 238, the legislation would then require a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate to override the veto and become law.

For more about stand your ground laws, contact criminal defense attorney Tom Hagen 507-200-8959.

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