Federal laws prohibit many activities related to firearms, and in some cases you can be charged with a crime just because you have a gun in your possession. Gun laws also make the penalties for other crimes much harsher if a firearm is involved. A firearm conviction can send you to federal prison—but not if you’re proven innocent. You need to talk to a Los Angeles federal gun offense lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we work hard to protect your rights and keep you from being fined or sent to prison. We have a team of top lawyers who have dedicated their careers to helping people fight gun charges and other federal crimes. Let us give you a free consultation to discuss your case. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
When is possessing a gun a federal crime?
Federal law (18 USC Section 922) makes it illegal for many people to possess or receive firearms or ammunition. The law applies to:
- People convicted of a felony
- People convicted of domestic assault, even if the charge was a misdemeanor
- Drug users or addicts
- Illegal aliens and aliens who have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. but do not have a green card
- People subject to a domestic restraining order
- People dishonorably discharged from the military
For a federal crime to be committed, the firearm also has to have been transported across state lines at some time. If not, it should be handled by California state law and local authorities.
The penalty for possessing a firearm under these circumstances is up to 10 years in prison, or more if there are three or more prior convictions of violent crimes or drug trafficking. In addition, it is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison to knowingly sell or give a firearm to someone in one of the above categories.
What if a firearm is used in a violent crime or drug offense?
It is also illegal to use or possess a firearm in relation to or in furtherance of a drug felony or federal “crime of violence” (18 USC Section 924). This means that if you are charged with a drug offense or violent federal crime, you will face harsher penalties if you also had a gun. It does not matter whether you fired the gun, or even displayed it. The prosecution only needs to prove that you had a gun to use as part of the crime.
A “crime of violence” under federal law is any federal felony that either involves using physical force or a threat of force against someone else, or involves a substantial risk that force may be used in committing the offense.
The penalty for this offense ranges from a minimum sentence of 5 years to a maximum of life in prison without parole—or the death penalty if someone died because of the firearm.
Even if no one was hurt, actually using a gun will bring a stiffer sentence than just possessing one during the crime.
What other laws can lead to federal gun offenses?
A variety of other federal laws can lead to federal gun charges. Some of the firearms activities prohibited by federal statutes include:
- Possessing, concealing, selling, shipping or transporting across state lines a stolen firearm, ammunition or explosive, or stealing a firearm from a firearms licensee. This offense is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison.
- Possessing or discharging a firearm in a school zone. This carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
- Knowingly possessing or manufacturing a variety of firearms, including machine guns, firearm silencers, sawed-off shotguns or rifles, destructive devices and firearms with a missing or altered serial number. This offense is punishable by as much as 5-10 years in prison.
- Selling, transferring or delivering a firearm to a minor under age 18, or in some cases, 21. Penalties vary depending on whether the seller was a firearms licensee and whether there was reason to believe the minor would commit gun violence.
What counts as a “firearm” under federal law?
Under federal law, guns are not the only type of firearms. Firearms can also include a firearm muffler or silencer or any type of destructive device such as a bomb, grenade, Molotov cocktail, bomb, incendiary or poison gas. A “firearm” can also be a collection of parts that could readily be used to assemble a destructive device.
What are some defenses to federal firearms charges?
A good defense attorney will raise a number of defenses, depending on the specific gun offense you are charged with. Common defenses to gun charges include:
- The government does not have enough evidence to prove the required elements of its case. The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt for a judge or jury to return a guilty verdict.
- Search and seizure laws were violated. Firearms are often discovered through a search and seizure, but if police did not follow proper procedure, the evidence gathered in the search can be suppressed, leading to an acquittal. For example, if the gun was found in a vehicle, the police must have had probable cause to conduct a search.
- Duress or threat. Occasionally a defendant can escape liability by showing that he or she needed to have a gun to guard against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury, and that there was no reasonable alternative but to have a gun.
Building a successful defense to a federal gun charge takes an in-depth knowledge of federal laws and procedures. The sooner you have an experienced federal criminal lawyer working on your case, the better your chances of beating a gun charge.
Talk to a Los Angeles Federal Gun Offense Lawyer for Free
At the Simmrin Law Group, our goal is to give you the strongest possible legal defense to federal gun charges and other federal crimes. We level the playing field between you and the federal government, pursuing every possible avenue to win your case. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.