The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution unequivocally states that Americans are afforded the right to keep and bear arms. While the Supreme Court has held that individuals’ have the right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes such as self-defense, there are significant restrictions on who may possess firearms and where and how they may be used.
Charges Involving Firearms
Firearms-related charges can stem from the unlawful use of a gun or from the use and possession of a gun by a prohibited person. The former charge can include any of the following criminal infractions:
Carrying a Concealed Weapon – Civilians are required to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Persons caught transporting a concealed firearm or other deadly weapon likely face felony charges unless certain defenses apply, such as inadvertent expired license or failure to renew.
Possessing a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony – If you were arrested for a separate felony offense and were found to be carrying a firearm at the time, you could face charges for the separate offense of possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony, even if the weapon was not used. This charge is often classified by degrees and may carry more serious penalties depending upon the nature of the underlying felony.
Possession of a Firearm in Prohibited Areas – There are a number of laws prohibiting the possession of a firearm near a school, playground or other area where children are present. It is generally not a defense that you did not know you were near a prohibited area, however certain other affirmative defenses to this charge are available and your defense attorney can plan an appropriate defense strategy in your case.
Possession of a Firearm by Prohibited Persons
Your defense attorney can also help you if you were found in possession of a firearm and are classified as a person prohibited from owning or possessing deadly weapons. A person may be prohibited from possessing a firearm either as a condition of their probation or due to the mandatory sentencing guidelines for certain crimes. For instance, many domestic violence statutes prohibit defendants from owning and possessing firearms. Other persons prohibited may include any of the following:
- Those convicted of crimes of violence and physical injury
- Anyone having been committed to a mental health facility
- Individuals convicted of certain drug offenses
- Those with a juvenile criminal record for offenses that, if tried as an adult, would have resulted in a felony conviction
- Fugitives from justice
If you are facing a recent weapons charge, including those involving the unlawful use or possession of a firearm, a criminal defense attorney can help you not only reduce or defeat your charges but safeguard your right to protect yourself and your home.