Minnesota judges do not always have to abide by sentencing laws in gun cases

In 2008, a man attacked a woman in Florida and was convicted of a felony. According to KARE 11, he was arrested in Minnesota a few years later and charged with carrying a handgun. State law mandates that a felon cannot possess a gun. As any criminal defense attorney Minneapolis knows, the mandatory minimum sentence for such an offense is five years in prison. However, a judge only sentenced the man to a year in a workhouse and probation with no time in prison.
This is not the only instance in which a judge has strayed from sentencing guidelines. In fact, a recent report reveals that in the majority of gun crime cases in Minneapolis, the mandatory minimum sentences were not applied.

By the numbers

KARE 11 conducted a study that reviewed every felony gun crime across the state of Minnesota for the past three years. The station’s report shows that in 53 percent of the cases statewide, judges issued less than the current mandatory minimum sentences. Narrowed down to just Hennepin County, 56 percent of the sentences did not meet the minimum requirements. In Carlton County, judges gave less than the minimum sentence in every case over the last three years.

A criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis understands that it is possible for the prosecution to object to sentences. However, the KARE 11 investigation found that prosecuting attorneys only objected in 12 percent of the cases across the state in which a judge handed down a lessened sentence.

Why it happens

Minnesota statutes outline the minimum sentences of imprisonment for those convicted of crimes, including gun charges. However, there is a section in the current state law that permits judges to avoid the minimum sentencing if there are compelling and substantial reasons to do so. Some of those reasons could involve the following:

  • The defendant was not the aggressor.
  • The defendant accepted responsibility.
  • The defendant showed remorse.

There are some guidelines that are referred to as “mandatory sentences,” which do not permit a judge to issue a lesser punishment. These sentencing laws apply to people who are convicted for a second gun offense. Yet KARE 11 did find one instance in which a man who was convicted twice of a gun crime did not receive the minimum sentence.

By and large, judges do have the power to issue punishment at their discretion with or without regard to sentencing guidelines. Anyone with questions regarding this topic should consult with a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis.

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

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