A gun with two bullets on it's side and little smoke coming from the gun.

What Are the Charges for an Accidental Shooting in Minnesota?

Unintentional shootings can lead to criminal charges, ranging from misdemeanor criminal negligence to felony-level manslaughter. Accidental shootings that result in fatalities attract more serious charges. You need to have a criminal defense attorney on your side anytime you are likely to face criminal charges for accidentally shooting someone. Your attorney will protect your rights and determine the best legal defense and arguments to raise. The attorney will also devise an effective strategy for weakening the prosecution’s case and lowering your chances of getting convicted. 

A gun with two bullets on it's side and little smoke coming from the gun.

An Accidental Shooting in Minnesota Is a Crime

Killing or injuring a person is unlawful, even if it is accidental. So, accidental shooting in Minnesota is a crime. These shootings usually happen due to the following reasons:

  • Lack of Training in Handling a Firearm: Many unintentional shootings happen because the alleged offender did not have proper gun-handling training and expertise. 
  • Use of Alcohol and other Intoxicants: Handling a gun while drunk or under the influence of controlled substances and other intoxicants can result in unintentional shootings. Alcohol and other intoxicants usually impair your vision, balance, and judgment. 
  • Unsafe Firearm Storage: Improper gun storage is another leading cause of unintentional shootings. One study found that unsafe gun storage contributes to increased accidental gun fatalities. 
  • Careless Gun Use: Many gun injuries or deaths also happen because someone handled a firearm carelessly or played with it. 
  • Poor Communication: Accidental shootings can also happen due to a poor or ineffective communication at a shooting range or while hunting in the woods. 
  • Shooting at a Hard Object or Surface: This action can cause the ammunition or surface chips to rebound and injure or kill someone at or near the scene.

Charges for An Accidental Shooting in Minnesota

Manslaughter Charge

A person who shoots and kills another person in Minnesota can face a second-degree manslaughter charge. Manslaughter is a felony-level offense. It is commonly known as criminally negligent homicide. A manslaughter conviction can arise if a person dies due to the offender’s grossly negligent actions or inherently risky conduct. 

Courts often consider mitigating and aggravating factors when determining sentences for manslaughter convictions. The ensuing sentences usually comprise penalties like prison time of up to 10 years or fines of up to $20,000, or both.

Mitigating Factors  

Mitigating factors refer to aspects that lessen the severity of the consequences of criminal conduct. Courts consider these factors when determining the appropriate sentence for a person found guilty of a crime. 

Unique circumstances of the criminal act, lack of prior conviction, and active participation in community programs are some mitigating factors in a second-degree manslaughter case. Accepting liability or showing sincere regret for the criminal act may also reduce the severity of the punishment. 

Aggravating Factors 

These factors enhance the severity of the consequences of a criminal act. Prior convictions for similar offenses and negligent conduct are examples of aggravating factors in a manslaughter charge. Shooting a cop in Minnesota can also result in harsher penalties. Another aggravating factor is killing a child, senior citizen, or an individual with a physical or mental disability. 

Misdemeanor Criminal Negligence Charge 

Shooting and injuring someone may result in a misdemeanor criminal negligence charge. This is especially the case when aggravating factors, such as separate criminal charges and prior convictions for similar or related offenses, do not apply. The punishment for a misdemeanor criminal negligence charge can be up to a year in prison. 

Potential Defenses to Criminally Negligent Homicide (Manslaughter) in Minnesota 

This crime can happen in different ways. As such, the potential defenses used will vary by case. Your felony defense attorney will examine your case’s specifics and unique circumstances to identify the best defense. Potential defenses to the charges of shooting and killing someone in Minnesota include: 

Accident Defense 

This defense can be effective if you demonstrate that the shooting incident happened without you acting carelessly or irresponsibly. You must also show that you did not know that your actions could have led to someone else’s death. 

Self-Defense 

You might avoid a conviction if you demonstrate that you reasonably believed you were protecting yourself or someone else from serious bodily harm or death. Proving self-defense in Minnesota involves showing the alleged complainant initiated the attack, you (the defendant) had a reasonable fear of injury or death, and you had no safe or reasonable chance to escape. 

Challenging the Credibility of the Prosecution’s Evidence 

This defense applies to all kinds of criminal cases. Your attorney will review the prosecution’s evidence to determine if expert witnesses are necessary to challenge its credibility. The attorney may, for instance, use expert witness testimony to show that the prosecution failed to secure and document the crime scene. 

You can also question the reliability of physical evidence, including firearms, ammunition, and blood, collected by the police. You can, for instance, show that the police followed illegal evidence-collection procedures. 

Another area you can challenge is crime scene reconstruction. You can claim that the prosecution’s expert used the wrong method to recreate how the crime happened. Expert witness testimony will help you support this claim. 

You can also poke holes into the prosecution witness’ statements. This might involve investigating the prosecution’s eyewitnesses to determine the nature of the testimony they might give. Your attorney can help you hire an investigator to conduct this investigation. The attorney can then use the findings to cross-examine the witnesses effectively and challenge their reliability. 

Existence of an Alternative Explanation for the Death 

Claiming that an alternative explanation for the alleged complainant’s death exists can also be an effective defense against manslaughter charges. 

Example

Let’s say you shoot a person unintentionally. The person gets into a vehicle crash while getting transported to the nearest healthcare facility. The person eventually dies. The prosecutor opens manslaughter charges against you for shooting and terminating the person’s life. Your attorney and independent expert examine the evidence and determine the person succumbed to vehicle crash injuries, not gun-related injuries. In this scenario, raising an alternative explanation for the death can help you avoid a conviction. 

Mistaken Identify Defense  

This defense involves claiming that someone else is responsible for the crime you are accused of committing. Police officers often arrest wrong suspects when they rely on contradicting witness statements or when under pressure to present a suspect to the prosecution. 

You could assert the mistaken identity defense if you were at an entirely different location when the crime occurred. You will need evidence, including credit card statements, hotel receipts, surveillance camera footage, and witness statements, to prove your alibi. 

Do You Need an Attorney when Facing Charges for an Accidental Shooting in Minnesota 

People facing criminal charges for shooting a person in Minnesota often wonder, “what does a criminal defense attorney do?” An attorney who has successfully defended clients against all kinds of unintentional shootings can make a significant difference in the result of your criminal trial. Here is how such an attorney can help you after you accidentally shoot someone:

Acting Swiftly and Decisively 

Timely and decisive action is crucial when you get arrested and charged with criminal negligence or manslaughter. The more time you waste in taking reasonable steps to defend yourself, the more time you give prosecutors to strengthen their case. 

Having a defense attorney in your corner from the start can prove helpful. The attorney can engage the prosecution in aggressive negotiations immediately after your arrest. He or she will try to convince the prosecution to reduce your charges or drop them altogether. 

Knowledge of the Local Criminal Justice System 

Seasoned criminal defense attorneys know how the local criminal justice system works. They have studied criminal law, represented criminal defendants in court for several years, and can develop a winning defense strategy. 

On top of understanding the system, they have cultivated valuable professional relationships with local players like prosecutors, judges, and colleagues. They know how each prosecutor works. They also understand that each courthouse is unique and has different procedures for handling cases. As such, your attorney can leverage this knowledge to determine which defense strategy will generate a desirable result in your case. 

Equipping You with Knowledge and Ensuring You are Well Prepared 

Appearing in court as a criminal defendant can be a nerve-racking experience. You can easily get overwhelmed by emotions. Fortunately, your attorney can help you get those emotions under control by guiding you on what to expect and steps to take to achieve a desirable result. Understanding how the legal justice system works and having someone knowledgeable to walk you through every step can help you avoid mistakes that could hurt your case. 

Your attorney can also equip you with the information you need to deal with any potential challenges or setbacks that might arise down the road. You, however, need to provide your attorney with as many details about the alleged criminal activity as possible. Be prepared to answer questions from your defense attorney to the best of your knowledge whether you are facing a murder, manslaughter, or armed robbery charge

Availing the Required Financial Resources and Manpower 

Investigations, document and evidence review, interviewing witnesses, and consulting different experts are necessary for developing a solid criminal defense strategy. All these tasks require plenty of financial resources and a competent legal team. Working with an attorney gives you access to all the resources you need to build an effective defense and maximize your chances of emerging victorious. 

Your legal team can bring in the right experts to investigate and review the evidence against you. The objective is to identify loopholes for contesting the credibility of the evidence. The legal team can also help you decide whether to negotiate a plea deal or let the case go to trial. 

Protecting Your Constitutional Rights 

scales of justice, magnifying glass, and page stating protection of constitutional rights.Police officers are sometimes careless when handling suspects. They also tend to overstep their legal boundaries. They may, for example, conduct a search and seizure without a reasonable cause or a valid warrant. The outcome is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects you against unlawful searches and seizures by the authorities. 

Your defense attorney can analyze the specific arrest and seizure details to determine if the officers violated your constitutional rights. If so, your attorney can file a motion to suppress certain types of evidence from your case. If successful, the court will bar the prosecution from using the contested evidence in your trial. 

Guiding You in Answering Questions During Interrogations 

Prosecutors, police officers, investigators, and even journalists may want to interview you regarding a criminal act you allegedly committed. The presence of your attorney during the interview or interrogation session can help you avoid answering questions that might incriminate you. 

Police officers and investigators usually do not have your best interest at heart during questioning. They might appear friendly and promise to assist you if you disclose specific information about your criminal case. In reality, they are simply gathering evidence to strengthen their case. So, do not accept any interview or interrogation without the presence of your attorney. Remember that it is your constitutional right to have a legal representative present during a questioning session. 

Saving Money and Preventing or Minimizing Potential Legal Consequences 

Hiring an attorney will cost you money. You will, however, save money in the long run if you hire someone with the necessary skills to handle cases like yours. Obtaining legal support and representation makes you likelier to get a desirable outcome. It also helps you avoid unnecessary delays and unforeseen setbacks associated with self-representation or working with an incompetent legal team. 

Getting the best outcome might help you retain your job and avoid paying thousands of dollars in fines. It can also prevent or reduce the collateral consequences of any conviction in your criminal record. Involving a skilled defense attorney is the most reliable way to get the best possible result in your criminal case. 

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

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Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.