Federal Firearm Offenses and Defenses

pistol picFirearm offenses carry severe penalties in federal court especially when guns are used during and in relation to drug trafficking and crimes of violence. The definition of a firearm in federal court means “any weapon” which will or is designed to expel a projectile by action of an explosive, the frame or receiver of such a weapon, or any destructive device.  If there are missing or broken pieces it is still a firearm if the frame or receiver is in tact. This definition does not include antique firearms defined as firearms made before 1898.  The firearm does not have to be operational or loaded to satisfy the definition.

It is unlawful for anyone to possess a “machine gun” or a “short barrelled shot gun”. A machine gun is generally defined as a weapon that is designed to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger without manually reloading. Some machine guns may be “grandfathered” in if bought or sold while lawful. Unregistered weapons are also unlawfully possessed.

The following people are prohibited from possessing a firearm:

  • people convicted of a crime punishable by one year or more – felons
  • any fugitive from justice
  • any person addicted to any controlled substance  including marijuana
  • a person who has been judged a mental defective or committed to a mental institution
  • any person dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces
  • any person convicted of the crime of misdemeanor domestic violence. This firearm possession right can be restored.

Potential Defenses to Federal Firearm Charges Include:

  • The government must prove “knowing possession” – the defendant must “know” that he possesses a gun, not that he must know of his prohibited status
  • The government must prove actual, constructive, joint or sole possession. A person has possession of something if the person knows of its presence and has physical control of it, or knows of its presence and had the power and intention to control it. They must have the power and ability to exercise control over it. The mere presence on the scene plus association with illegal possessors  is not enough.
  • Legal Justification for Possession by virtue of duress, or necessity or self defense. Duress can be a legal excuse for possessing a firearm where the defendant was, at the time of the conduct, subject to actual or threatened force of such a nature as to induce a well founded fear of impending death or serious bodily harm from which there was not reasonable opportunity to escape other than by engaging in the illegal activity
  • Entrapment – a government agent leading one to reasonably believe that possession of the weapon was authorized.

The Law Office of Barton Morris has successfully litigated many firearm offenses in federal court during the past 15 years. Call (248) 541-2600 for the best federal criminal defense in the Eastern of Western Federal Districts of Michigan.

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