Psychologists have long studied the “weapons effect“, a phenomenon that says aggression escalates any time a weapon is present. What might have been a minor disagreement can become a serious conflict, and even turn deadly, in seconds. As a result, Minnesota lawmakers and law enforcement instituted harsher penalties for crimes where a gun is present.
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When the prosecution adds a weapons charge to the list of criminal complaints, crimes become more serious. A felony lawyer in Minneapolis defending a gun charge must deal with several critical issues.
Types Of Charges
In Minnesota, gun charges may be considered misdemeanors or felonies on their own.
- Reckless Handling: Gun owners must practice extreme caution when moving or handling a gun, and the failure to use the correct safety procedures can lead to a misdemeanor charge. The prosecution does not have to prove an intent to harm, only that the defendant put others in danger with improper handling of the weapon.
- Brandishing A Firearm: Any time a person points a gun at another, whether loaded or not, they risk charges. If the person pointing the gun also made threats against another person, the prosecution may add the charge of making “terroristic threats”, elevating the crime to a felony.
- Carrying Without A Permit: The state requires handgun and assault weapon owners in Minnesota to apply for a permit before purchase. Carrying a weapon without a permit can lead to jail time and a hefty fine.
All misdemeanor charges can become gross misdemeanors if the offense happened in public housing, near a school, park or other specified public places. When elevated, the sentence goes from 90 days to a year in jail, and fines increase from $1000 to $3000.
- Felon In Possession: The federal government’s rules prohibit anyone convicted of a felony from owning or possessing a gun. Being caught immediately terminates probation, and may lead to extended jail time.
- Selling Or Possessing Silencers: The courts ruled consistently that silencers and other devices meant to lessen the sound of gunfire are meant to aid criminal activity and have limited use outside of those activities.
- Reckless Discharge: Firing a weapon, intentionally or unintentionally, within the city limits is grounds for a felony gun charge. If the defendant purposely fired the gun in a way that put someone’s life at risk, the sentence escalates considerably.
Like with misdemeanor gun charges, if the crime occurs on certain public properties, the punishments can more than double.
Elevation Of Charges
Gun charges are a problem on their own, but they become devastating when paired with certain other activities.
Assault ==> Aggravated Assault ==> Attempted Murder
Simple assault occurs when a person intentionally inflicts physical harm, creates the fear of harm, or attempts to harm another person. By itself, simple assault is a misdemeanor, and the crime can be taken care of without a trial.
When a gun is present, the crime jumps from a misdemeanor to at least Second Degree Assault, and often First Degree Assault. The gun allows the prosecution to make the case the defendant intended “great bodily harm”, which indicates a risk of permanent disfigurement or death.
In some instances, the prosecution may take the charges even further, and bring a case for attempted murder. Second Degree Attempted murder charges require no premeditation, because they are typically crimes of passion. Wielding a gun during an assault may demonstrate to a jury that the defendant had a clear intent to not only cause bodily harm, but the death of the victim.
Robbery ==> Aggravated Robbery
A felony lawyer in Minneapolis is necessary for anyone charged with simple robbery, a felony that can carry a sentence of 10 years in prison. The lawyer is even more important when the prosecution increases the charge to First Degree Aggravated Robbery.
First Degree Aggravated Robbery occurs whenever a defendant used a weapon, or made the robbery victim believe the defendant had a weapon, during the act of robbery. The mere presence of a gun, even if it is in the defendant’s pocket and never used, is an aggravating factor and radically increases the punishment.
Beyond the escalation of existing charges, adding a gun charge may allow the court to sentence a defendant to consecutive sentences, rather than concurrent. This sentencing structure greatly increases the defendants total time behind bars.
Defendants need a felony lawyer in Minneapolis to protect their rights, and to prevent an overzealous prosecutor from adding gun charges to another crime. If convicted of a weapons charge, the defendant could lose the right to own a firearm forever, and see a suspension of voting rights for the duration of the sentence. With the assistance of a felony lawyer in Minneapolis, defendants may be able to avoid much lengthier prison sentences.