Violations of the federal statutes that cover the unlawful use, possession, sale and distribution of firearms can result in severe penalties, possibly including a decades-long prison term, or even a life sentence or the death penalty in the most serious cases. You could be at risk for weapons charges under a number of circumstances, including if you have a criminal record and are not legally allowed to possess or carry a firearm (18 U.S. Code § 922(g)), or if you are accused of using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime or violent crime (18 U.S. Code § 924(c)).
It is important to remember that federal criminal cases are subject to a completely different set of rules and sentencing guidelines than state cases, and having a knowledgeable defense attorney on your side who understands the federal court process is the key to mitigating the criminal charges and penalties against you in your gun crime case. For more information about defending yourself against federal weapons charges, contact our defense team at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers as soon as possible to schedule a free, confidential weapons offense consultation.
Federal Weapons Charges
Gun laws in the United States regulate the sale, use and possession of firearms and ammunition, and these laws provide the federal government with a vast arsenal of offenses to choose from when prosecuting defendants in gun crime cases. Weapons violations are commonly charged against individuals involved in federal drug cases, most notably those involving crimes like drug trafficking, or the unlawful transportation of illegal drugs or controlled substances.
Federal authorities have made it a priority to crack down on serious drug crimes and they have a great deal of leeway to investigate and prosecute drug-related offenses like drug trafficking. In fact, if any firearm is present at the time a drug trafficking crime takes place, the government may claim that the firearm was used to aid in the illegal distribution of drugs, which can result in federal weapons charges.
Federal law also prohibits many other types of individuals in California from possessing or carrying firearms, including those with prior convictions for felony offenses, and any person found guilty of violating such laws can face federal charges for a weapons-related offense. Our federal lawyers have a great deal of experience defending clients against a variety of weapons charges, including the following:
• Unlawful possession of a firearm – Possessing a firearm without the proper license or illegally possessing a firearm as a felon
• Unlawful import and export of weapons – Illegally importing weapons into the U.S. or exporting weapons from the U.S. into another country
• Firearms trafficking – Illegally distributing weapons or ammunition
• Violent crimes involving the use of a firearm – Any federal crime involving the unlawful use of a firearm will be considered a violent crime
• Fraud – As a weapons charge, fraud refers to the crime of illegally obtaining a weapons permit
Penalties for Federal Weapons Charges
If you have been accused of a federal weapons offense like unlawful possession, unlawful import/export, firearms trafficking, fraud, or use of a firearm to commit a drug trafficking crime or federal violent crime, you could face serious criminal penalties.
Depending on the circumstances of the alleged crime, your criminal record and other specified factors, a conviction on federal weapons charges could result in significant fines, prison time and other life-changing legal consequences. The two statutes most often used by the federal government to prosecute weapons offenses are as follows.
18 U.S. Code § 922(g) – Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person
This statute makes it a federal crime for “prohibited persons” to possess or receive a firearm or ammunition or to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce any firearm or ammunition. Under the law, prohibited persons include the following: felons, drug users or addicts, aliens, any person subject to a domestic violence restraining order, any person with a prior conviction for domestic assault, fugitives from justice, or any person who was dishonorably discharged from the military.
A violation of 18 U.S. Code § 922(g) is a Class C felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years. The penalty for a crime under this statute may include a minimum sentence of 15 years if the defendant has prior convictions for a federal violent crime and/or drug trafficking felony.
18 U.S. Code § 924(c) – Use in Furtherance of a Violent Crime or Drug Trafficking Crime
This statute makes it a federal crime to use, carry or possess a firearm in relation to or in furtherance of a felony drug crime or federal crime of violence. A conviction under 18 U.S. Code § 924(c) carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five, seven, 10, 25 or 30 years, depending on the specific circumstances of the weapons offense, to be imposed in addition to the sentence imposed for the underlying violent crime or drug trafficking crime. In the most serious cases, a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 924(c) is punishable by a sentence of imprisonment for life or even the death penalty, if death results from the use of the firearm.
Sentencing for Federal Gun Crimes
Sentencing for weapons offenses in the United States can be complex and confusing, which is where the expertise of a federal criminal defense lawyer comes in. There are a variety of enhancements that can increase the punishment for a federal gun crime, including whether the weapon was reported as stolen (18 U.S.C. § 922(i) and (j)), whether the firearm was possessed in a school zone (18 U.S.C. § 922(q)), and whether the weapon had a large capacity magazine (18 U.S.C. § 922(o)) or was altered in any way (18 U.S.C. § 922(k)).
Federal gun laws impose particularly harsh penalties on individuals with prior convictions for violent crimes or drug-related crimes and on individuals accused of using guns in the commission of a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime. The consequences of a federal weapons offense are most severe in cases where someone is seriously injured or killed.
Defense Against Weapons Charges
As you can see, federal weapons charges are extremely serious, potentially life-changing criminal charges, and if you want to maximize your chances of success, you should get a knowledgeable defense lawyer involved as early on in your case as possible.
An experienced attorney understands the myriad issues that can occur in a federal weapons offense case and is prepared to deal with these potential issues as they arise. A good attorney is also familiar with the various defense options available to you in your case and can advise you on the best legal strategy based on your specific situation, while ensuring that your rights and best interests are protected. Some common defenses to federal weapons charges include the following:
• The weapon did not belong to the defendant
• The weapon was not used in relation to or in furtherance of a crime
• The defendant did not knowingly possess the weapon
• The firearm was discovered and seized during an illegal search
• The defendant possessed the firearm due to duress and necessity (he believed himself to be in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury)
• The defendant possessed the firearm for the purpose of self-defense
• The government played a direct role in inducing the defendant to commit the weapons offense (entrapment)
• The defendant’s arrest and/or interrogation were unconstitutional
If your weapons case goes to trial, it is up to the federal government to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, which is why it is vital that your attorney knows the ins and outs of the federal gun laws. By asserting one or more of the legal defenses mentioned above, your attorney may be able to prevent the prosecution from proving its case and secure a not-guilty verdict or obtain a reduced sentence on your behalf. Contact our criminal defense lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today to find out how you can avoid being convicted of a federal weapons offense and serving a lengthy prison sentence.
The Weapons Offense Attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help
If you were arrested for the unlawful possession of a firearm, you could face harsh criminal penalties under federal firearm laws. Or, if you have been charged with a violent crime or drug trafficking crime and you are accused of using a firearm in furtherance of the crime, you could face additional penalties for a weapons offense, possibly including a mandatory minimum prison term of between five years and life in prison.
It is of the utmost importance that you work with a criminal defense lawyer who understands the ramifications of a weapons offense conviction, especially when the charges call for harsh mandatory minimum sentences. If you are up against a federal weapons charges, a strong defense can mean the difference between maintaining your freedom and spending years or the rest of your life behind bars, so don’t wait to protect your rights. Contact our trusted defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today.