So you have a domestic assault conviction for causing bodily harm to a romantic partner or a person to whom you are acting as a parent. Your gun rights are gone for life under the federal Lautenberg amendment, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9). How to fix this?

Some mistakenly believe they can file a petition in district court to restore the right to possess firearms. The fatal flaw with this is that it’s the federal government who is taking away rights for life. A state court judge cannot restore a right that the federal government is taking away – the state court judge does not have that jurisdiction to order the federal government to restore rights.

We used to believe that a person could go get an expungement. See 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(33)(B)(ii), which states, “ a person shall not be considered to have been convicted of such an offense for purposes of this chapter if the conviction has been expunged…” This is no longer the case. The federal government will no longer recognize Minnesota’s expungement because Minnesota’s expungement is the sealing of records so they are not publicly viewable, but the expungement does not reverse or vacate the conviction. For the federal government to recognize the restoration of firearms rights, the process must vacate the conviction.

In Minnesota, we do have a process available to reverse a conviction called a Pardon Extraordinary. The pardon board is made up of the Governor, the State Supreme Court Chief Justice, and the State Attorney General. The pardon board has indicated a general unwillingness to grant pardons for domestic assault offenses, so while this is a legal option, it remains a very uphill battle.

The only other option for people is to reopen their case with the prosecutor and court to reach a different resolution – one that does not involve a domestic assault conviction for causing bodily harm. This heavily depends on the position of a prosecutor. In some cases this is a viable option; in other cases it is not.

Contact Brandt Criminal Defense for a consultation about your individual situation to see which options may be available for you.