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In Minnesota, brandishing a weapon generally refers to displaying a weapon in a threatening or intimidating manner. It doesn’t necessarily mean using the weapon or physically harming anyone with it but can still be considered a serious offense.

The exact legal definition and consequences of brandishing a weapon can vary depending on the circumstances, the type of weapon involved, and whether there was intent to harm or intimidate.

For example, in Minnesota, displaying a weapon in a threatening manner can lead to charges such as assault, terroristic threats, or disorderly conduct, depending on the specifics of the situation. 

However, as generally used, brandishing means to display or wield a weapon. The term implies some element of intent; thus, the inadvertent display of a firearm tucked into one’s waist may not be considered brandishing; but pulling out a weapon and waving it in the air would almost certainly constitute brandishing. 

If you have been charged with brandishing a weapon in the St. Paul area or in Minnesota, please contact the firearm crimes lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka today.

Is Brandishing a Weapon Illegal?

Typically, yes, brandishing a weapon is illegal, provided there is no good cause for doing so. Below are some of the situations in which brandishing a weapon can land you in legal trouble:

  • Assault. If you use a weapon in a threatening or harmful way against someone, it can be considered assault. This includes pointing a weapon at someone or making them feel afraid that you might hurt them with it.
  • Terroristic threats. If you threaten to use a weapon to harm someone or to cause fear or disruption, it can be classified as a terroristic threat. This is taken very seriously under Minnesota law.
  • Disorderly conduct. Displaying a weapon in a way that alarms or disturbs others in public can lead to charges of disorderly conduct.
  • Aggravated assault. If the brandishing of a weapon leads to serious injury or if it’s done with intent to cause harm, it can be charged as aggravated assault, which is a more severe offense. 

However, there are also situations where brandishing a weapon may not be against the law. These exceptions typically revolve around lawful self-defense or defense of others.

For example, if you reasonably believe that you or someone else is in imminent danger of harm, and you use or display a weapon as a last resort to defend yourself or others, it may be considered lawful self-defense or defense of others.

However, the use of force must be proportionate to the threat faced. Additionally, brandishing a weapon as part of lawful activities such as hunting, shooting sports, or in the course of military or law enforcement duties, may also be permitted under certain circumstances.

Is Brandishing a Firearm a Felony?

Brandishing a firearm can be a felony, but that isn’t always the case. For example, under Minnesota Law, an assault is “an act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death.”

Under Minnesota Statutes § 609.222, it is considered an assault in the second degree, a felony, to assault another person with a dangerous weapon. In this case, the offense is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $14,000.

However, this implies that by brandishing the weapon, you intended to assault the alleged victim, which will not always be the case. Thus, it isn’t always a second-degree assault to brandish a firearm. 

Brandishing a replica firearm or BB gun is a gross misdemeanor under Minnesota Statutes § 609.713, which criminalizes making threats of violence or terroristic threats. Brandishing a weapon can also be a traditional misdemeanor if no one is hurt, and you had the legal authority to own the weapon.  

Those who have questions about crimes involving brandishing weapons should reach out to an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney, as these laws are very complex and subject to interpretation. 

What Is the Penalty for Brandishing a Weapon?

The punishment for brandishing a weapon varies, depending on the type of weapon and the fact surrounding the incident. Below are some of the most common examples involving brandishing a weapon.

Assault Crimes

Simple assault, which includes brandishing a weapon without causing serious harm, is typically a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Aggravated assault, where serious harm is caused, or a deadly weapon is used to threaten another, is a felony. The penalty can range from one to 20 years in prison, along with fines up to $30,000.

Terroristic Threats

Brandishing a weapon while making terroristic threats is a felony. In some situations, the mere act of brandishing is considered the “threat” giving rise to the offense. The penalty can range from one to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Disorderly Conduct

Displaying a weapon in a threatening manner in public is considered disorderly conduct, which is usually a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or fines up to $1,000.

The seriousness of a crime involving brandishing a weapon can vary dramatically—from a misdemeanor unlikely to result in a jail sentence to a felony carrying a decades-long term of incarceration.

Those charged with assault, terroristic threats, disorderly conduct or any other weapons crime should consult with an experienced Minnesota gun crimes lawyer for immediate assistance. 

Speak with an Experienced Terroristic Threats Lawyer About Your Charges Today

If you’re facing a brandishing a weapon charge, it is imperative that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to protect your rights.

At the Minnesota criminal defense firm of Arechigo & Stokka, we have decades of experience and have handled hundreds of cases to completion.

We command an in-depth understanding of the Minnesota terroristic threat laws, what the prosecution needs to prove to obtain a conviction, and how to stop them from doing so.

To learn more about our firm and to schedule a free consultation today, give Arechigo & Stokka a call or fill out our secure online contact form and one of our lawyers will get back with you shortly. 

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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