Is a drive-by shooting a ‘victimless crime?’

The Minnesota Supreme Court today ordered a harsher sentence for a drive-by shooter.

Michael Ferguson had earlier successfully appealed a sentence not only for one count of a felony drive-by shooting, but also for eight counts of assault against the eight people — six of them children — who lived in the Saint Paul apartment house where the shooting took place.

An Appeals Court had tossed out the assault sentences, but today the Supreme Court reimposed the additional three-year sentence for the assaults.

Minnesota law “prohibits multiple sentences, even concurrent sentences, for two or more offenses that were committed as part of a single behavioral incident,” Justice Helen Meyer wrote. “But the legislature did not intend… to immunize offenders in every case from ‘the consequences of separate crimes intentionally committed in a single episode against more than one individual.'”

Unlike the crime of assault, the drive-by shooting statute does not require that the occupants of the building be injured, put in fear, or even be aware of the shooting, the court said. Justice Meyer suggested that sentencing Ferguson on just one count of the shooting toward one person means the other people in apartment were not victims.

In his dissent, however, Justice Paul Anderson, argued that the additional sentence for assault makes a drive-by shooting “a victimless crime.”

“The majority’s approach to the sentencing of Ferguson is erroneous for two reasons,” Anderson said. “First, the majority’s conclusion that occupants of a building are not victims of the offense of drive-by shooting at an occupied building is unsupported by Minnesota law. Second, contrary to the majority’s assumption, the multiple-victim exception does not support a sentence for a victimless crime that arises from the same conduct as other sentenced crimes.”

Here’s the entire opinion.

  • jon

    I guess the law is clear, don’t commit drive by shootings on multiple family dwellings. Single Family homes only.

  • Jim Shapiro

    “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

    Shakespeare, Henry VI

    Accordingly, judges that play legalistic games with the safety of the citizenry should drawn and quartered. Pilloried?

    OK. Recalled.

  • John P II

    Interesting read. I’m with the dissenters on this one; seems like the drive-by statute is adequate for situations where no one was actually hit. The occupants of the building are the victims and separate charges for each occupant are unnecessary. The alternative is pretty silly – what about a high rise apartment building with hundreds of occupants? And does it really matter how many people are actually home?