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Marsh Halberg

Marsh Halberg

"Attorney of the Year" (Minnesota Lawyer 2011)

"Top Six Criminal Defense Attorneys" (Mpls/St.Paul Magazine)

"Super Lawyer" (1997-Present)

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Tina Appleby

Tina Appleby

Achieved jury acquittals / case dismissals / successful resolutions in over 2,000 cases

"Top 100 National Trial Lawyer"

"Who's Who in Criminal Law"

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Lucas Dawson

Lucas Dawson

"Super Lawyer Rising Star 2017, 2018 and 2019

Requested speaker at Minnesota CLEs

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Zach Graham

Zach Graham

J.D. St. Thomas School of Law, cum laude

Achieved successful outcomes for clients in district court and on appeal

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Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson

"Rising Star" from 2004-2013

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Doug Hazelton

Doug Hazelton

"Best Lawyers in America" (2008-Present)

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Author Minnesota DWI Handbook (West Publishing)

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Debbie Lang

Debbie Lang

2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 "Super Lawyer Rising Star"

"Top 100 National Trial Lawyers" by the National Trial Lawyers' Association

1 of 50 Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice Members

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Dave Risk

Dave Risk

Eight-Time Award Winner of "SuperLawyer - Rising Star"

J.D. William Mitchell College of Law magna cum laude graduate

2014, 2015 and 2016 "Super Lawyer"

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Christina Zauhar

Christina Zauhar

Member of Minnesota Women Lawyers

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Contributing Author to Minnesota DWI Deskbook

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Is the Center Console of Your Vehicle A “Public Place” Under Minnesota Law?


HomePractice AreasBlogs - Center Console Minnesota Law

Center Console: Is it a "public" or "private place"?

Laws may often appear to be little more than a formal expression of a society’s common sense and ‘thou shalt not carry a handgun in public while drunk or high’ is one of them.

But as with many laws, the ‘devil’ is in the details.

Recently the Minnesota Court of Appeals considered the case of a motorist who was stopped by police for a traffic violation and was placed under arrest for DWI. Pursuant to the motorist’s request for the officer to retrieve his wallet and keys from the vehicle’s center console, the officer discovered a handgun.

The motorist was prosecuted for violating Minnesota Statute section 624.7142, subd. 1 which prohibits carrying a pistol on or about a person’s clothes or person in a public place while under the influence of alcohol and/or other controlled substances.

Anyone reading the law would naturally ask two questions:

  1. Was the location of the pistol in the center console of his vehicle ‘on or about’ the driver’s clothes or person under the statute; and

  2. Is the driver’s center console a ‘public place’ under the law?

To the first question, the driver conceded that the pistol found in the center console was ‘on or about’ his person as previous cases law established that the statute is satisfied if there is either a physical nexus between the person and the pistol or if the pistol is carried within arm’s reach of the person. Both were satisfied in this case.

For the second question, the Court of Appeals determined that the term public place as used in the statute was ambiguous.

In an earlier case, involving a person who carried his pistol on his person at a bar he owned and operated the Court of Appeals defined a “public place” as “generally an indoor or outdoor area, whether privately or publicly owned, to which the public have access by right or invitation, express or implied, whether by payment of money or not.”

Clearly this definition would not apply to the center console of a motor vehicle so the Court of Appeals re-aligned its earlier definition to apply to the roadway and not to a pistol owner’s vehicle.

The Court of Appeals recognized that while the law allows people to protect their homes and businesses, the law must also protect the public from dangers inherent to firearm possession by impaired persons and limit those places where a person could carry a pistol while intoxicated.
Because those dangers to the public are present regardless of whether the armed and impaired individual is travelling in a vehicle or on foot, it would make no sense to cure the ‘targeted mischief’ by allowing an intoxicated person to carry a pistol in a vehicle, but prohibit them from carrying the same weapon while walking. 

Accordingly, the court found that the only sensible interpretation of public place as intended by the legislature was to define a personal vehicle operated on a public highway as a mode of transportation and not a private place, meaning that the driver could be properly prosecuted for carrying a pistol in a public place while intoxicated.

However, the result may have been different if the gun was found in a locked trunk as opposed to the center console as then there may have been a question as to whether the pistol was ‘on or about’ his person. We’ll update you if such a case is decided by the courts in the future.

If you find yourself facing criminal charges involving DWI or firearms (or both), our attorneys can meet with you to discuss your options.  At Halberg Criminal Defense, our team approach puts the firm’s collective knowledge and experience in your corner. Our attorneys are available 24-7 — call us at 612-DEFENSE (612-333-3673).

Contact us for a free consultation

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