Washington County Circuit Court Rules Wisconsin Stun-Gun Ban Unconstitutional
Kohler & Hart attorney Craig S. Powell was recently able to secure a favorable ruling for a client charged with illegally possesing an electric weapon, commonly referred to as a stun gun. Powell’s client was charged with illegally possessing an electric weapon, commonly referred to as a stun-gun. Wisconsin statute sec. 941.295 provides: “Whoever sells, transports, manufactures, possesses, or goes armed with any electric weapon is guilty of a Class H felony.” The statute provides some exceptions, allowing a civilian citizen to go armed with an electric weapon in his or her own dwelling, place of business, or on land that her or she owns, and also allowing a person who has obtained a concealed carry permit under Wis. Stats. 175.60(1)(d) to possess or go armed with an electric weapon.
Powell moved to dismiss the charge against his client, arguing that electric weapons were “arms” protected by the Second Amendment, and that Wisconsin’s law restricting the exercise of a person’s right to possess electric weapons was unconstitutional. Powell also argued that the penalty scheme for this charge violated constitutional equal protection guarantees. Wisconsin State 941.23 makes it illegal to carry concealed weapons, including electric weapons, without a concealed carry permit. A violation of 941.23 is classified as a misdemeanor, with maximum penalties of 9 months in jail and a $10,000 fine. Under 941.295, carrying a electric weapon, whether in a concealed or open fashion, is criminal conduct classified as a Class H felony, with maximum penalties of 6 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In addition, individuals convicted of felonies lose other constitutional rights, such as the right to vote and the right to own or possess a firearm. Powell argued that this significant difference in penalties was irrational and arbitrary.
The Washington County Circuit Court agreed with Powell’s arguments and ruled that both the law itself and its penalty provisions were unconstitutional.