The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled this week in State v. Prigge that a person under the influence of alcohol who is driving a vehicle with a pistol within arm’s reach can be charged with a crime.
In Prigge, the defendant was arrested for DWI. Law enforcement performed an inventory search of the vehicle after the arrest. During the search, law enforcement found a loaded pistol in the center console. The defendant was charged with violating Minnesota Statute § 624.7142, subd. 1(4).
Minnesota Statute § 624.7142, subd. 1(4) makes it a crime for a person to carry a pistol on or about the person’s clothes or person when the person is under the influence of alcohol. The defendant argued that his pistol was not being carried “on or about” his clothes or person because his pistol was in the center console. The State disagreed, arguing that the “or about” language suggests that the proper question is not whether the person was actively wearing or carrying the pistol, but whether the pistol was “readily accessible.”
The court interpreted the “or about” language in the statute to mean that the statute was intended to cover conduct that went beyond carrying a pistol “on” one’s person or clothing. The court concluded that a pistol is carried “on or about” one’s person or clothing if there is either a physical nexus between the person and the pistol (i.e. holding the pistol, carrying it on your hip, etc.) or if the pistol is carried within arm’s reach (i.e. in the center console of a vehicle).
This ruling raises questions as to what exactly does “within arm’s reach” mean? Does it mean a person’s arm span while they are sitting up straight? Or does it mean how far someone could possibly reach from their current location? What if the pistol is in the glovebox, requiring the person to lean over to reach it? What if that glove box is locked? Does the pistol have to be immediately accessible or just within range?
The court did not provide guidance on the above questions. Instead, it stated that the meaning of “within arm’s reach” is a question for a jury to decide, meaning it would be advisable to hire a compelling and persuasive attorney to argue your case. Luckily, Migala Law Office is just a phone call away.