The Second Amendment of the Constitution ensures that American citizens have the right to own weapons. However, these firearms are subject to a number of state and federal regulations—many of which can have a major effect on your life if violated.
Don’t let these charges define you. If you are facing federal firearm charges, contact The Law Office of Peter Blair. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.
Types of Federal Firearm Offenses
Federal law puts restrictions on certain “high-risk” types of firearms, such as short-barreled shotguns, machine guns, and silencers. In order to obtain these types of firearms, you typically have to undergo a thorough background check and register the weapon with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Federal law governs a number of types of firearms offenses, including:
- Unlawful possession of a weapon
- Unlawful use of a firearm
- Firearms trafficking
- Importation/exportation of firearms
- Violent crime involving a firearm
- Fraudulently obtaining a firearm
Many federal firearm offenses deal with the use of a firearm to commit another crime, such as drug trafficking. However, in certain cases, the simple possession of a firearm is enough to bring federal charges. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, signed into law in 1993, outlaws possession of firearms for people who:
- Have been convicted of a crime punishable by prison time of more than one year
- Are fugitives from justice
- Are addicted to or illegally use any controlled substance
- Have been rules mentally unfit by court or are committed to a mental institution
- Are living in the U.S. unlawfully
- Received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces
- Have renounced their U.S. citizenship
- Are subject to a court restraining order that involves your significant other, your significant other’s child, or children
- Have been convicted of domestic violence in any court
When it comes to possession of a firearm, it is important to distinguish between “actual” and “constructive” possession. Actual possession is when the accused person had physical control of the weapon (for example, it was in the suspect’s hand or waistband when he or she was arrested). Constructive possession, on the other hand, is when the accused had the weapon in a certain place where they had the ability and access to retrieve it, but did not have it physically on their person. Both types of possession are permissible in federal court, but constructive possession allows a defense attorney to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case. For example, just because the weapon was in the defendant’s home, does that necessarily mean he knew it was there? Does that mean he had access to it? Does that mean he had intent to use it? These types of questions can greatly aid your case in federal court.
Penalties and punishment for federal firearms cases vary widely depending on the type of firearm, the circumstances of the offense, and the prior offenses of the accused (if any).
Federal vs. State Firearms Cases
Federal court cases differ from state-level criminal cases in a number of ways. Federal courts have jurisdiction—that is, the authorization to hear certain cases—only in certain situations, such as when:
- The United States is a party in the case
- The case involves a violation of the U.S. Constitution
- The case involves a violation of federal laws
- The case involves citizens of different states and the amount in questions exceeds $75,000
- The case involves bankruptcy, copyright, patent, or maritime law
Individual states, however, have broader jurisdiction, which is why the state handles a much wider array of cases; state courts are equipped to handle everything from robbery and drug offenses to petty theft and traffic violations. Unless the case is brought against the U.S. or involves some type of federal law (be it criminal, bankruptcy, antitrust, patent, copyright, or maritime).
In addition, states have discretion to establish their own firearm laws. For example, one state might allow you to purchase a machine gun with a thorough background check, but another state will not allow you to purchase it at all.
Federal crimes also generally come with harsher sentences than state crimes. Federal firearm charges provide for sentence enhancements (such as an additional 5 years if the firearm was used in the commission of a violent crime) and increased penalties for multiple offenses, prior felony charges, and more. While the mandatory minimum sentence for a serious firearm offense might be only a few years under state law, a federal case could carry a mandatory minimum sentence of more than 5 or 10 years, depending on the circumstances involved.
Federal criminal cases also differ from state cases in their execution. Law enforcement agencies who enforce federal laws and investigate federal offenses are usually well-staffed and well-funded, leading to a more thorough investigation. Federal prosecutors are well-trained and have a massive base of resources at their disposal; plus, they typically don’t have to deal with the overcrowding and scheduling issues of state and municipal courts.
Contact the Law Offices of Peter Blair
Federal firearm charges have the potential to change your entire life. You are more than the charges leveled against you, and you deserve an attorney who will aggressively fight for you and your freedom. Depending on the circumstances of your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney like Peter Blair can help you determine the best course of action for your defense.
When facing federal criminal charges, it is in your best interest to be proactive. The sooner you act, the better your chance of minimizing jail time or avoiding a conviction altogether. Mr. Blair provides the best federal firearms defense strategy that gives you the best chance at a favorable outcome, and he will fight for you and your freedom.
Don’t let these charges define you. If you want the best federal firearms defense strategy, Call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.