18 US Code § 922, 930
U.S. Federal Weapon Charges
Federal Weapon Charges – Table of Contents
Federal Weapon Charges – Overview
Being charged with a federal weapons offense is extremely serious. You will need an experienced and knowledgeable federal weapons criminal defense attorney to best defend your case and protect your interests. Under California law, most weapons offenses are typically filed at the state level. They are usually investigated by California law enforcement and prosecuted in California state court. Any conviction would result in a California state felony conviction.
However, weapons charges can also be prosecuted at the federal level. They can carry harsher penalties than if brought at the state level. Some of these convictions have mandatory minimum prison sentences. If you face a charge at the federal level, the United States Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. For example, suppose you are convicted under a federal weapons charge. In that case, penalties can include a variety of sentences, including a five-to-ten-year prison sentence. Depending on the specific facts of your case and whether or not there are aggravating factors, this federal charge could also result in a life sentence in prison.
You need an experienced federal weapons criminal defense attorney to help protect your interests at every step of the process. Such an attorney will work to protect your rights from being violated to ensure that you have the best defense to obtain the most favorable outcome possible.
What are Federal Weapons Offenses?
You commit a weapons offense if you violate a statute regulating deadly weapons. Deadly weapons, such as firearms, are regulated at both the state and federal levels. The federal government will usually get involved when there is a violation of federal law, the firearm is illegally manufactured or transported across state lines, or if the firearm is used to commit a federal crime.
The United States government has defined such weapons as “any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or any destructive device.”
Generally, unless prohibited by law for other reasons, you are permitted to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Under federal laws, the following are regulated:
the purchase, sale, possession, manufacture, import, and distribution of firearms.
Federal law also prohibits the sale of these firearms to specific restricted classes of people, such as convicted felons or minors. In addition, some types of weapons or firearms are entirely banned from use. An example of weapons that have been banned altogether would be semiautomatic weapons or machine guns.
Firearms trafficking, unlawful possession, fraud, “violent federal crimes” are just a few examples of many types of weapons offenses charged at the federal level. More common types of offenses typically involve defendants with prior felony convictions. Individuals with prior felony convictions are not allowed to legally possess any kind of firearm.
Title 18 of the United States Code governs the various types of federal weapons offenses, including multiple sections that outline the use of firearms and other potentially lethal weapons that result in a crime.
Example of Federal Weapons Offenses
Some examples of the various sections of the 18 U.S.C. governing include the following:
- Knowingly Sell, Give, or Otherwise Dispose of any Firearm or Ammunition to a Prohibited Person;
- Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition by a Prohibited Person;
- Use, Carry, or Possess a Firearm in Relation to or in Furtherance of a Drug Felony or a Federal Crime of Violence;
- False Statement on a Record of a Gun Purchase;
- Drive-By Shooting;
- Stolen Firearm, Ammunition, or Explosive;
- Firearm in a School Zone;
- Importing, Manufacturing, or Dealing Firearms Without a License;
- Knowingly Possess or Manufacture an Illegal Firearm;
- Deliver, or Transfer a Firearm to a Juvenile.
- If Dave is a convicted felon and possesses a firearm, he can be charged with this crime;
- If Chris knows that Dave is a convicted felon but sells his firearm to Dave, Chris can be charged with a federal weapons charge;
- If Joe, a janitor at a high school, brings a firearm to the high school, he has violated the Firearm in a School Zone section of the statute;
- If Bob, an adult, sells a firearm to Dylan, a minor, he can be charged with a federal weapons charge for selling a firearm to a juvenile;
- If John, a member of a gang, shoots at individuals on the street while in a motor vehicle, he has committed a drive-by shooting in violation of this statute (as well as other statutes);
- If Danielle (without a license) sells Gloria a firearm, Danielle has committed a federal weapons crime.
Federal Weapons Sentencing
As outlined above, charges for weapons offenses can be brought at both the state and federal levels. The federal government will usually get involved when there is a violation of federal law, the firearm is illegally manufactured or transported across state lines, or if the firearm is used to commit a federal crime.
Penalties can be harsh at both levels; however, harsher penalties usually occur at the federal level. Therefore, the criminal punishment will vary based on the specific facts of your case. For example, some factors that are involved in the sentencing are:
- Which specific statute or statutes were violated;
- If there were aggravating factors; and
- If the defendant has a prior criminal record.
As an example, if an individual violates the statute as mentioned above related to possessing a firearm or ammunition by a prohibited person, then they have committed a Class C felony, which is punishable by a maximum monetary fine of $250,000, in addition to a federal prison sentence of up to 10 (ten) years. Moreover, suppose that the same person has a prior felony conviction for committing a violent crime or a drug crime. In that case, they could face a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison with no possibility of parole.
Another example that demonstrates the various types of sentencing is found by looking at the statute which governs “Use, Carry, or Possess a Firearm in Relation to or in Furtherance of a Drug Felony or Federal Crime of Violence.” If convicted of violating this statute, you could face a mandatory minimum sentence of five (5) years in prison. Moreover, your potential sentence could be life imprisonment, with no parole, or death if death results from your firearm use.
Guidelines for federal sentencing establish more harsh penalties depending on the particular firearm involved in the crime, whether there were any other crimes committed at the time of the weapons offenses, and whether or not the defendant has any prior convictions. For example, in the Los Angeles area, these types of weapons offenses are usually charged in connection with “drug-related” crimes such as violent crimes of assault or drug trafficking, which can significantly increase the penalties if convicted.
Fighting/Defending Federal Weapons Charges
You need an experienced federal defense attorney to assist you in defending against these serious crimes and potential convictions and penalties. The federal government, in this case usually the FBI, or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), has most likely spent weeks, months, or years in obtaining the evidence they will use against you. This can make it difficult to defend against such charges.
For these reasons, you need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. The government has the burden to prove each element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. You are also presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If the prosecution cannot meet the burden of proving each element of the crime, there cannot be a conviction. This is a high standard for the prosecution. An experienced defense attorney can help you prepare the best possible defense to challenge the prosecution’s case.
Moreover, a knowledgeable and seasoned defense attorney will often deal and negotiate with the federal authorities on your behalf. Specifically, an attorney will challenge the federal government’s case against you, particularly when the charges brought against you carry mandatory minimum sentences or significant prison sentences. Even if there is overwhelming evidence in favor of the prosecution and against you, your attorney will fight for you and negotiate with the prosecution to obtain a reduction in charges or sentences as part of a plea deal.
Typically, in these types of situations, a skilled defense attorney will argue the following:
- Evidence obtained against you was the result of an illegal search and seizure;
- There was no probable cause for the arresting officer to carry out their arrest;
- There is a lack of evidence sufficient to prove any crime beyond a reasonable doubt;
- You have no prior felony convictions;
- The weapon never traveled interstate or via foreign commerce; and
- You are not within one of the restricted classes of people as outlined in the statutes.
An experienced and knowledgeable federal weapons defense attorney can help you prepare the best possible defense to challenge the federal government’s case.
We Want to Help
If you are being charged with weapons offenses, either on the state or federal level, in the Los Angeles area, contact us today for a free consultation. Your freedom depends on finding an experienced defense attorney immediately. The sooner you reach out, the sooner we can work on your legal defense, which may involve avoiding an arrest or charges being filed.
Assuming charges have already been filed, an experienced defense attorney can potentially have your case drastically reduced or dismissed entirely. Call us now at 310 274 6529 for a free consultation.
If you or a loved one is being charged with federal weapons offenses, we invite you to contact us immediately for a free case review. Our experienced and assiduous attorneys will be sure to fight until the end to protect your interests and possibly reduce or drop your charges entirely.
Call Us for a FREE Case Review: 310-274-6529
How to Win Your Case
We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:
- Don’t ever talk to the police
- Do not discuss your case with anyone
- Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
- Tell police you need to contact your attorney
- Never consent to any search by the police
- If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
- Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
- Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
- Information on your cell phone is evidence
- Early Intervention is the key