Temporarily Giving Drugs to Wife Was Not Sale, MN high court holds

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: MN criminal law, "sell" defined.

Abshir Abtidon Barrow v. State of Minnesota. MN criminal law, "sell" defined

In 2014, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the Rice County conviction of Abshir Abtidon Barrow. When stopped by police, Barrow had given some cocaine to his wife to hide. The Court of Appeals held that the transfer to his wife constituted a "sale" of the drug.

Barrow appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which reversed the conviction on April 15, 2015. The definition of "sell" includes "give away," and the Court of Appeals had upheld the conviction on these grounds. But the Supreme Court focused on the word "away," and noted that even though he might have "given" the drugs to his wife, he had not given them "away," since that additional word implies that they were a present given permanently, rather than merely temporarily as in this case.

The high court held that because the defendant pleaded guilty based on facts that do not fall within the definition of "sell" in Minn. Stat. 152.01, there was not a sufficient factual basis for his plea, and his motion to withdraw his guilty plea should be granted

No. A13-1520 (Minn. April 15, 2015).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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