How to Prepare Against a Federal Weapons Charge
Federal weapons charges come in many different forms, but all carry severe penalties if you are convicted. You may face a lengthy prison time or lose your ability to own a weapon in the future. If you’re charged with a federal weapons offense, preparing your case as soon as possible is crucial so you don’t face undeserved consequences. In this post, we’ll discuss some strategies and preparation tips to put you in the best possible position.
Federal prosecutors may carry great power, but you are still innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The McKinney, TX criminal defense attorneys at Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian have an in-depth understanding of weapons laws, and we can help build your case, defend your rights, and protect your reputation. Call us today at (972) 369-0577 for an initial consultation.
Understand Your Charges
From a legal standpoint, federal weapons offenses are more serious than offenses at the state level. The first step in building your case is understanding your specific charges, their legal significance, and the elements of the charges themselves. 18 U.S.C. Ch. 44 details all weapons charges the federal government prosecutes, including charges in these categories:
- Possession by a prohibited person/of a prohibited weapon – “Prohibited persons” include, but are not limited to, previously convicted felons, drug users, or those targeted in a restraining order. In the context of firearms, “prohibited” weapons include, but are not limited to, machine guns, sawed-off long rifles/shotguns, or weapons with illegal components such as bump stocks.
- Possession in a gun-free area – Gun-free zones include schools, airports, post offices, courthouses, government office buildings, and any facility the federal government owns or uses. Carrying a gun in any of these areas is a federal crime.
- Sales-related violations – This category of offenses includes making false statements to a licensed weapons dealer, making/using a fake weapons permit, failing to follow federal gun sales regulations, or selling weapons without a license.
- Use/possession of a weapon in the course of another crime – If someone possessed a firearm while committing a violent crime or drug trafficking-related offense, mandatory minimum sentences may apply. Someone convicted under these laws will face a longer sentence, which could range from five years to life in prison.
- Weapons trafficking – While weapons trafficking is not an explicit crime, illegal weapons dealing across state lines or into the U.S. from another country can still lead to serious federal charges.
Consider the Circumstances
As you build your defense, your legal team must thoroughly investigate the facts of the case. While the prosecution has the burden of proof in federal weapons cases, you should work with your legal team to prepare various forms of evidence to support your innocence. Common forms of evidence our lawyers use in these cases include:
- Footage of any related incidents, as captured by security cameras or dashcams
- Documents supporting your right to possess or sell weapons
- Records and receipts of individual sales transactions, including mandatory shop records and registration details reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (A.T.F.)
- Witness accounts supporting details of the case, including where you were
- Character witnesses supporting your good reputation in the community
Know Common Defenses
Federal weapons laws balance the need to deter illegal weapon use with the right to bear arms. There are certain defenses or legal exceptions that may apply to your case. You and your lawyer will consider the circumstances of your case and the defenses that could apply, including:
- Not “knowingly” possessing the firearm – For a jury to convict on some weapons possession charges, the prosecutors must prove the defendant knew that having custody of the specific weapon was illegal. For example, if you did not know that a gun you received was marked as stolen, you may have a defense to use in court.
- Possession under duress – If you can prove that someone else forced you to possess a weapon under threat of injury or death, your legal team may be able to use this defense in a trial.
- Antique guns – Federal weapons charges do not apply to antique weapons that have been disabled.
Contact a Texas Weapons Charge Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a federal weapons offense, it’s essential to be proactive and retain legal counsel immediately. The weapons charge defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian have combined decades of experience helping clear the names of innocent clients, and we’re ready to fight for you. Call us today at (972) 369-0577 for a confidential case evaluation.