Michigan has two laws that are sometimes confused with one another: Felony Firearm (FF) and Felon in Possession of a Firearm (FIP). One of them can be charged any time a person had a firearm on them at the time they committed a felony or attempted to commit a felony. The other pertains only to those who have previously been convicted of a felony. They also carry very different penalties.
The more well-known of the two crimes is Carrying or Possessing a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime or Attempt to Commit a Felony. The charge is usually referred to as Felony Firearm (FF). You can read the Michigan law here.
Essentially, if you carry or possess a firearm while committing a felony in Michigan, you can be charged with Felony Firearm as well as the other felony. Although felony firearm laws were passed to discourage people from possessing guns while committing other felonies, you can be charged with FF even if the gun you had did not discharge.
However, you cannot be charged with FF if you only used something to make the victim believe it was a firearm; ex. your finger, a stick, or even a toy gun.
Carrying a Concealed Weapon
The prosecutor can charge you with FF if you carried or possessed a firearm while committing (or attempting to commit) almost any other felony, but there are a few exceptions. Perhaps the most surprising exception to the FF law is if you are charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW, Pistol), or with Carrying a Pistol in a Motor Vehicle, whether the pistol is concealed or not. The Carrying a Concealed Weapon statute includes both of those fact patterns and can be found here.
Therefore, if you are carrying a firearm but it is concealed, you can only be charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon (Pistol), not Carrying a Concealed Weapon and Felony Firearm. Similarly, if you are pulled over and police discover a firearm in the passenger compartment of your vehicle, you can be charged with Carrying a Pistol in a Motor Vehicle, but not with Carrying a Pistol in a Motor Vehicle and Felony Firearm. You can find a more detailed description of the Carrying a Concealed Weapon law here.
Felony Firearm is one of a handful of crimes that gives the judge in your case no discretion in sentencing you. While most crimes have a sentencing range the judge can adhere to (sentencing you anywhere from a term of probation up to five years), a FF conviction has a mandatory prison sentence depending on the offense below:
- A first conviction for FF carries a mandatory two years in prison.
- A second conviction carries a mandatory five years.
- A third or subsequent FF conviction carries a mandatory 10 years.
Sentencing for Felony Firearm
Felony Firearm is also different from most crimes because of the way your sentence(s) and the other felony (or felonies) must be served. In most cases, sentences are served at the same time, or concurrently.
For example, if you were convicted of stealing a car, breaking into a house, and assaulting someone, all three sentences would start on your first day in prison and the date you would be eligible for parole is based on the longest sentence you received.
However, if you are convicted of first offense Felony Firearm and another felony, the prison time for the other felony will not start until the two years for the FF has been served. This is called consecutive sentencing.
Furthermore, a sentence for a FF conviction cannot be suspended or reduced by good conduct time or other prison credits. Since a FF conviction requires a two-year, five-year or ten-year sentence, all of which cannot be suspended and is not affected by prison credits; it is often called “flat time.”
Felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition
Although anybody who carries or possesses a firearm while committing another felony can be charged with Felony Firearm, the crime of Felon in Possession of a Firearm (FIP) can only be committed by someone who has previously been convicted of one or more felonies.
The Michigan statute that prohibits a felon from possessing a firearm or ammunition has a number of different provisions. The provision that is most frequently used bans a person who was previously convicted of a felony from doing a laundry list of actions with a firearm until a specific time has passed.
Specifically, if you have previously been convicted of a felony, you cannot possess, use, transport, sell, purchase, carry, ship, receive, or distribute a firearm in Michigan until at least three (3) years after all of the following things have happened:
- The previously-convicted person has paid all fines that were part of the prior sentence.
- The previously-convicted person has completed all terms of imprisonment that were part of the prior sentence.
- The previously-convicted person has completed all probation or parole conditions of the sentence in the prior sentence.
The same Michigan law also prohibits a person convicted of a felony from possessing, using, transporting, selling, carrying, shipping, or distributing ammunition in Michigan until at least three (3) years have passed.
As the federal law currently stands, if you have ever been convicted of a felony you will never be legally able to carry or possess a gun. The federal ban against carrying or possessing a firearm applies to every person convicted of a felony in every person in every state, not just Michigan. The Michigan Felon in Possession of a Firearm law simply allows the prosecutor to charge a state law violation for carrying, possessing, etc. a firearm or ammunition if they have a prior felony. The federal ban on carrying or possessing a gun by those previously convicted of a felony is set forth separately and in greater detail here.