Restoration of Civil Rights to Firearms in Minnesota

Can you get your gun rights back in Minnesota?

Gun laws in Minnesota are a web of Minnesota state and federal statutes and court rulings.  Information here should help those researching the laws.  It’s not legal advice.

Step one: Find the Cause of the Problem

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Before understanding how to get your gun rights back, you need to understand what event caused the rights disability.

The two most common are: felony “crime of violence” and domestic violence conviction.  There are other, less common events.  These include a civil commitment for mentally illness, a juvenile adjudication for a felony “crime of violence,” 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.  Preventing that problem is best.

But if you’ve already 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.

Step two:  General Rule – Automatic Gun Rights Back After a Minnesota Felony

The general rule is that you automatically get your gun rights back after your Minnesota felony sentence expires.   When your felony sentence expires you are off-paper.  This means discharge from jail or prison and from probation or supervised release.

But, for some Minnesota felonies there is a default lifetime ban.  More on that below.  But first, let’s look deeper at the general rule.

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 is automatic restoration of civil rights for persons with felony (and misdemeanor) convictions.  Restoration is 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.”

Step three: Exception to General Rule – Felony “Crimes of Violence”

A felony “crime of violence” conviction triggers loss of gun rights forever by default.  The exception to this exception is the right to petition the court for restoration.  Therefore, to know how to get gun rights back, we need to know:

  1. Does the person have a felony conviction?  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.”  But 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.

Step four:  Exception to the Exception – Court Order for Restoration of Civil Rights

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 … possess … a firearm or ammunition for the remainder of the person’s lifetime. Any person who has received such a discharge and … 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 … possesses … 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. …

(c) The criminal penalty in paragraph (a) does not apply to any person … 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 … 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 posses … 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. …

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.

FAQ:  Expungement and Restoration of Civil Rights to Firearms

In Minnesota, the laws generally restore civil rights (e.g. voting) for those convicted of crimes.   But in some cases Minnesota laws do not restore your gun rights after a conviction.  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, Section 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 … possess … a firearm for the remainder of the person’s lifetime. Any person whose record of conviction is expunged under this section … 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.  For now, the take-away is that a typical Minnesota expungement won’t get your gun rights back.

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 they said the conviction reduces to a misdemeanor upon completion of probation.  Does this mean my gun rights are back?”

To answer that, we must answer another first: “was the felony conviction for a felony ‘crime of violence?‘”  If not, Minnesota law automatically restores gun rights upon discharge from probation (regardless of whether a stay of imposition or other kind).

But if a felony “crime of violence” conviction, then the person suffers a default lifetime loss of gun rights.   The exception is the legal 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.  And a conviction for “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year,” does not change even though deemed a misdemeanor after a Stay of Imposition.  This is due to Minnesota Statutes § 609.13, Subd. 1(2), quoted above.

Stay of Imposition Redux

For purposes of getting gun rights back after a felony conviction, a stay of imposition makes no difference at all.

Practice tip:  Criminal defense lawyers like Thomas Gallagher who understand gun laws have another way to protect clients, however.  If the defense attorney can try to get a Gross Misdemeanor sentence instead of a Felony Stay of Imposition.  A gross does not trigger the felony gun rights disability.

Restoring Gun Rights After a Stay of Adjudicaton?

First, what is a stay of adjudication?  It’s a term-of-art in criminal law.  It refers to one type of disposition (outcome) of a criminal charge.

The word “stay” means to pause.  The word “adjudication” essentially means “conviction.”  So, a stay of adjudication is a criminal case on pause prior to conviction.

Though a judge can order a stay of adjudication over the protest of a prosecutor, that’s quite rare.  (Statutory stays of adjudication under Minnesota Statutes § 152.18 are an exception.)

A stay of adjudication is conditional.  The defendant who agrees to this disposition must comply with the conditions ordered by the judge.  If the defendant violates a condition, the defendant’s guilty plea already offered is then accepted by the judge.  This then results in adjudication or conviction.

But if the defendant completes the years of the stay of adjudication successfully, by not violating a condition, the charge is then dismissed.  No conviction results.

Because there is no conviction, gun rights are restored.  Restored?  Yes, because gun rights are temporarily lost while a felony charge is pending.  A person has a pending felony charge until the court discharges them from the stay of adjudication.

As a result, a stay of adjudication is a great outcome if you can get it, when it comes to gun rights.

Juvenile Certified as an Adult

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, provides for:

  • the automatic restoration general rule for felonies,
  • the exception for felony “crimes of violence,” and
  • the exception to the exception rights restoration court order – similar to other adult felonies. 

Civil Commitment and Civil Rights

A judge can Order your gun rights back
A judge can Order your gun rights back

A civil commitment as mentally ill, developmentally disabled, mentally ill and dangerous, or chemically dependent, destroys the person’s civil rights to firearms.  But that person can petition the court for their restoration.

Minnesota Statutes Section 624.713, CERTAIN PERSONS NOT TO POSSESS FIREARMS:

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.

Other ways to lose and get your gun rights back

Other Minnesota laws, and federal laws, can create a loss of civil rights to firearms based upon a criminal conviction.  One example is the temporary loss of civil rights during a civil Order for Protection.  OFPs typically last two years.  After they expire, you get your gun rights back automatically.

Gun-related pages on Liberty-Lawyer.com

Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher
Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher

Gun Crimes Defense Attorney
Self-defense Law in Minnesota
Ineligible Person in Possession of a Firearm
What is firearm possession?
Restoration of civil rights to firearms (this page)
Minnesota Carry Permit Law
Carrying under the influence

Minnesota Criminal Lawyer Thomas Gallagher is a recognized legal expert in Minnesota gun lawsAttorney Thomas Gallagher taught many Continuing Legal Education courses to judges and other lawyers over the years.  And he’s written in-depth articles about Minnesota gun rights as well as self-defense.