State v. Foster
Court of Appeals of Minnesota
Holding: A defendant who is convicted of a felony “crime of violence” may be charged as a felon in possession of a firearm pursuant to Minnesota Statute section 624.713, subdivision 1(b), even if his felony conviction has been reduced to a misdemeanor.
Why This Case is Important: Minnesota Statute section 624.713, subd. 1(b) prevents defendants who have committed certain crimes from possessing firearms. This includes those defendants that have committed crimes of violence. This case is important to understand that a crime of violence that is a felony may still be used for subsequent prosecution of felony possession of a firearm, even if the court has reduced the felony conviction to a misdemeanor pursuant to Minnesota Statute section 609.13.
A 1990 case, State v. Moon, set the stage for the court’s decision in this case. In Moon, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined that a defendant’s conviction for a felony crime of violence could allow the court to restrict a defendant’s firearm possession, even if his civil rights had been restored and the felony conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor. The Court reasoned that the nature and components of the original crime were important in assessing whether the firearm restriction should be in place. Because the original crime was a felony crime of violence, then the Court concluded the firearm restriction should be in place.
Similar to Moon, the defendant in this case had his felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. However, adopting the reasoning of the Minnesota Supreme Court from Moon, the court stated it was the nature of the original crime that served as the basis for prosecution of felony possession of a firearm. As such, even though the conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor, because the prior felony conviction was a crime of violence, a charge of felony possession of a firearm could affirmatively be brought.
Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case was charged with the crime of felon in possession of a firearm. The defendant was charged with this offense because of a previous felony conviction for possession of cocaine, a crime of violence. The defendant argued that he could not be charged with the crime of a felon in possession of a firearm because his previous conviction had been reduced, and because it had been reduced, he could no longer be considered a “felon.” The issue of whether a prior felony that has been reduced to a misdemeanor could be used to charge a defendant with the crime of felony firearm possession was brought to the court of appeals.
The Court of Appeals of Minnesota concluded that the defendant could be charged with the crime. The court of appeals stated that Minn. State § 624.713, subd. 1(b), prevented defendants who have been convicted of felony crimes of violence from possessing firearms. The appeals court adopted the reasoning of the Minnesota Supreme Court in its decision from State v. Moon and held that it was the nature of the original offense that was relevant to determining whether the charge could be brought.
The appeals court stated that the original felony conviction was a crime of violence. And because the statute specifically stated that a defendant convicted of a felony crime of violence was precluded from possessing a firearm, the court of appeals answered in the affirmative that the defendant could be charged with the crime.
Key Language: Based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Moon and Woollett, we conclude that a person convicted of felony possession of cocaine that by operation of law becomes a misdemeanor, can be prosecuted for the crime of felon in possession of a firearm, because the prior felony conviction constitutes a crime of violence.
Expert Advise: “This case establishes how courts have interpreted the effects of being convicted of a crime of violence. Typically this is of great relevance when it comes to firearm possession. It is important to remember that it is the original crime, not subsequent actions by the court, which can serve as the basis for subsequent prosecution or court action.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee.
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