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State v. Yang

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 14, 2016

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Lue Yang, Appellant.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-15-10663. Reversed

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Michael W. Kunkel, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Johnson, Presiding Judge; Reyes, Judge; and Tracy M. Smith, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         A BB gun that is powered by compressed air is not a "firearm, " as that term is used in section 624.713, subdivision 1, of the Minnesota Statutes.

          OPINION

          Johnson, Judge

         A Hennepin County jury found Lue Yang guilty of being an ineligible person in possession of a firearm, in violation of section 624.713, subdivision 1, of the Minnesota Statutes. The conviction is based on evidence that Yang possessed a BB gun that is powered by compressed air. On appeal, Yang argues that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction because, as a matter of law, the BB gun at issue is not a firearm. Yang is correct because the plain language of section 624.713, subdivision 1, applies only to a gun that is powered by the explosive combustion of gunpowder. Therefore, we reverse the conviction.

         FACTS

         On April 20, 2015, a Richfield police officer stopped a vehicle that was driven by Yang. The officer arrested Yang and, in connection with the arrest, searched the vehicle. During the search, the officer saw an item under the driver's seat that appeared to be a handgun. Another officer photographed the item, removed it from the vehicle, and identified it as a compressed-air BB gun. Yang does not challenge the arrest or the search of the vehicle.

         The state charged Yang with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(2) (2014). At trial, one of the officers testified that the item found under the driver's seat of the vehicle is a BB gun that is powered by compressed air, specifically, carbon dioxide (CO2) that is contained in an attached cartridge. After the state rested its case, Yang moved for a judgment of acquittal. He argued, in part, that the state had failed to prove its case because a BB gun is not a firearm. The district court denied the motion, stating that a BB gun is a firearm for purposes of the statute under which Yang was charged.

         The jury found Yang guilty. The district court sentenced him to 60 months of imprisonment. Yang appeals.

         ISSUE

         Is the evidence sufficient to support Yang's conviction of being an ineligible person in possession of a firearm, in violation of section 624.713, subdivision 1, of the Minnesota Statutes, given the state's ...


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