Restoration of Civil Rights to Firearms in Minnesota

Liberty
Liberty

Gun laws in Minnesota are a complex web of Minnesota state and federal statutes and court rulings.  Information provided here is intended to help those seeking information and researching the laws, and does not represent any kind of legal advice.

Before a person can consider how to restore their civil rights to firearms, the event that caused their rights disability must first be determined.  Two are most common, felony “crime of violence” and domestic violence conviction.  There are other, less common events, such as a civil commitment for mentally illness, a juvenile adjudication for a felony “crime of violence” or domestic violence crime, etc. (see, e.g.,  the list in Minn. Stat. 724.713).  A person who has lost their civil rights to firearms can be criminally prosecuted, as we discuss specifically here:  Defending persons charged as an ineligible person in possession of a firearm in Minnesota.  It’s best to prevent that problem.  If you have lost your civil rights, can you get them back?

This page will focus on restoring gun rights after a Minnesota felony conviction.  Here is a link to our article with an in-depth look at how to restore civil rights to firearms after a Minnesota domestic assault conviction.

Civil Rights Restoration After a Minnesota Felony

Anyone convicted of a felony crime loses their civil rights to  firearms at least until completely discharged from the sentence or probation:

“CERTAIN PERSONS NOT TO POSSESS FIREARMS.”
Minn. Stat. 724.713, Subd. 1 (10) “a person who:

(i) has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;”

The Minnesota general rule for civil rights of persons convicted of felonies (and misdemeanors) that they are automatically restored by operation of statute upon completion of sentence (discharge from sentence, probation, or supervised release).  Minnesota Statutes §609.165, RESTORATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS; POSSESSION OF FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION:

“Subdivision 1. Restoration. When a person has been deprived of civil rights by reason of conviction of a crime and is thereafter discharged, such discharge shall restore the person to all civil rights and to full citizenship, with full right to vote and hold office, the same as if such conviction had not taken place, and the order of discharge shall so provide.”

The exception to the general rule for felony “crimes of violence”

Persons convicted of a felony “crime of violence” lose their firearm civil rights forever (subject to petitioning the court for restoration).  Therefore, it is important to determine:  (1) Was the person convicted of a felony?  Is the sentence over (has probation ended)?  (2) Was the felony conviction for a listed “crime of violence?”

The most common impairment to civil rights to firearms is based upon a conviction for a felony “crime of violence.”  (Beware: The term “crime of violence” as defined by the applicable Minnesota Statute (624.712, subd. 5) is misleading, since it includes crimes which are actually non-violent, for example, possession of marijuana.)

Minnesota Statutes 609.165 “Restoration of civil rights; possession of firearms” provides:

Subd. 1a.  Certain convicted felons ineligible to possess firearms or ammunition. The order of discharge must provide that a person who has been convicted of a crime of violence, as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, is not entitled to ship, transport, possess, or receive a firearm or ammunition for the remainder of the person’s lifetime. Any person who has received such a discharge and who thereafter has received a relief of disability under United States Code, title 18, section 925, or whose ability to possess firearms and ammunition has been restored under subdivision 1d, shall not be subject to the restrictions of this subdivision.

Subd. 1b. Violation and penalty. (a) Any person who has been convicted of a crime of violence, as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, and who ships, transports, possesses, or receives a firearm or ammunition, commits a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both.
(b) A conviction and sentencing under this section shall be construed to bar a conviction and sentencing for a violation of section 624.713, subdivision 2.

(c) The criminal penalty in paragraph (a) does not apply to any person who has received a relief of disability under United States Code, title 18, section 925, or whose ability to possess firearms and ammunition has been restored under subdivision 1d.

Subd. 1d. Judicial restoration of ability to possess firearms and ammunition by felon. A person prohibited by state law from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm or ammunition because of a conviction or a delinquency adjudication for committing a crime of violence may petition a court to restore the person’s ability to possess, receive, ship, or transport firearms and otherwise deal with firearms and ammunition.
The court may grant the relief sought if the person shows good cause to do so and the person has been released from physical confinement.

If a petition is denied, the person may not file another petition until three years have elapsed without the permission of the court.

Subd. 2. Discharge. The discharge may be:
(1) by order of the court following stay of sentence or stay of execution of sentence; or

(2) upon expiration of sentence.

The Relationship between Expungement and Restoration of Civil Rights to Firearms.
In Minnesota, the laws that restore civil rights generally (e.g. voting) for those convicted of crimes, in many cases do not apply to firearms civil rights.  Some assume that a court’s Expungement Order, if granted, would also restore lost civil rights to firearms.  Not necessarily – Minn. Stat. 609A.02).  Minnesota’s expungement statute, Chapter 609A.03 (2018), provides:

“Subd. 5a. Order concerning crimes of violence; firearms restriction. An order expunging the record of a conviction for a crime of violence as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, must provide that the person is not entitled to ship, transport, possess, or receive a firearm for the remainder of the person’s lifetime. Any person whose record of conviction is expunged under this section and who thereafter receives a relief of disability under United States Code, title 18, section 925, or whose ability to possess firearms has been restored under section 609.165, subdivision 1d, is not subject to the restriction in this subdivision.”

You’ll find a deeper development of the interplay between Minnesota and federal law of, expungement and civil rights to firearms in our article:  how to restore civil rights to firearms after a Minnesota domestic assault conviction.

Restoring Gun Rights after Felony Stay of Imposition?
A frequently asked question goes like this:  “I completed my felony probation on a Stay of Imposition and was told the conviction was reduced to a Gross Misdemeanor upon successful completion of probation.  Does this mean my gun rights are restored?”

To answer that question requires another be answered first: “was the felony conviction for a felony “crime of violence?”  If not, gun rights were automatically restored upon discharge from probation (regardless of whether a stay of imposition or other kind).

If the conviction was for a felony “crime of violence” then the person suffers a lifetime loss of gun rights (subject to the right to petition the court for restoration).

Minnesota Statutes § 609.13 CONVICTIONS OF FELONY OR GROSS MISDEMEANOR; WHEN DEEMED MISDEMEANOR OR GROSS MISDEMEANOR.
Subdivision 1. Felony. Notwithstanding a conviction is for a felony: …
(2) the conviction is deemed to be for a misdemeanor if the imposition of the prison sentence is stayed, the defendant is placed on probation, and the defendant is thereafter discharged without a prison sentence.

But the above does not change the more specific:

“CERTAIN PERSONS NOT TO POSSESS FIREARMS.”
Minn. Stat. 724.713, Subd. 1 (10) “a person who:

(i) has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;”

A crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year is the definition of a Minnesota felony crime.  If a person was convicted of “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year,” that does not change even though the conviction may be deemed a Gross Misdemeanor after successful completion of a Stay of Imposition, due to Minnesota Statutes § 609.13, Subd. 1(2), quoted above.

Though less common, some lose their civil rights to firearms based on a conviction after being a juvenile certified as an adult.

Minnesota Statutes Section 242.31, RESTORATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS; POSSESSION OF FIREARMS. (2018):

Subdivision 1.  Restoration. Whenever a person who has been committed to the custody of the commissioner of corrections upon conviction of a crime following certification under the provisions of section 260B.125 [juvenile certified for adult prosecution] is finally discharged by order of the commissioner, that discharge shall restore the person to all civil rights. The commissioner shall file a copy of the order with the district court of the county in which the conviction occurred.

Subd. 2.  Order of discharge. Whenever a person described in subdivision 1 has been placed on probation by the court pursuant to section 609.135 and, after satisfactory fulfillment of it, is discharged from probation, the court shall issue an order of discharge pursuant to subdivision 2a and section 609.165.
This order restores the defendant to civil rights.

Subd. 2a.  Crimes of violence; ineligibility to possess firearms. The order of discharge must provide that a person who has been convicted of a crime of violence, as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, is not entitled to ship, transport, possess, or receive a firearm for the remainder of the person’s lifetime. Any person who has received such a discharge and who thereafter has received a relief of disability under United States Code, title 18, section 925, or whose ability to possess firearms has been restored under section 609.165, subdivision 1d, shall not be subject to the restrictions of this subdivision.

127_Fotolia_1075487_XA person who has been civilly committed as mentally ill, developmentally disabled, mentally ill and dangerous, or chemically dependent, and lost their civil rights to firearms as a result, can petition the court for their restoration.

Minnesota Statutes Section 624.713 CERTAIN PERSONS NOT TO POSSESS FIREARMS (2018):

Subd. 4.  Restoration of firearms and ammunition eligibility to civilly committed person; petition authorized. (a) A person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under subdivision 1, due to commitment resulting from a judicial determination that the person is mentally ill, developmentally disabled, mentally ill and dangerous, or chemically dependent, may petition a court to restore the person’s ability to possess a firearm or ammunition.

(b) The court may grant the relief sought in paragraph (a) in accordance with the principles of due process if the circumstances regarding the person’s disqualifying condition and the person’s record and reputation are determined to be such that:

(1) the person is not likely to act in a manner that is dangerous to public safety; and

(2) the granting of relief would not be contrary to the public interest.

(c) When determining whether a person has met the requirement of paragraph (b), clause (1), the court may consider evidence from a licensed medical doctor or clinical psychologist that the person is no longer suffering from the disease or condition that caused the disability or that the disease or condition has been successfully treated for a period of three consecutive years.

(d) Review on appeal shall be de novo.

The above Minnesota statutory section may be of interest to people researching this question.

Keep in mind that other Minnesota laws, and federal laws, could create a loss of civil rights to firearms based upon a criminal conviction.