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Firearms and Drugs: An Overview

Under state and federal law, it is illegal to possess a controlled substance that is not prescribed by a physician.  This is not a new concept, and most people in this country are aware of the illegality.  The charges in Minnesota for illegal drug possession vary, from misdemeanors to felonies.  And the corresponding sentences upon conviction range from minimal probation to lengthy prison sentences.  But what happens when someone uses, or is in possession, of a firearm while also in possession of a controlled substance.  This short article addresses these collateral consequences.

In Minnesota, the possession of controlled substances in conjunction with a firearm has dramatic and far-reaching consequences.  Let’s take an example::  Someone is pulled over for speeding, and the officer suspects that the vehicle contains evidence of drug possession.  During the search of the vehicle, the officer finds 10 pounds of marijuana in the trunk, a felony level offense.  The officer also locates a loaded firearm in the center console of the vehicle.  Under normal circumstances, absent the possession of the firearm, the individual is not looking at serving prison time if convicted of the drug offense.  Rather, the maximum sentence in Minnesota would be 365 days in county jail.  However, the possession of the firearm triggers Minnesota Statute §609.11.  Under said statute, the possession of the firearm automatically triggers a mandatory 36 months in prison.  The presence of the firearm turned a relatively minor offense into a serious one.

In short, certain offenses in Minnesota require a 3 year prison sentence simply by virtue of a firearm  being present at the time of the offense.