Criminal Law – Unlawful Possession of a Weapon

Unlawful Possession of a Weapon

New York Gun Control Laws
New York state gun laws cover the sale, purchase, possession, and registration of firearms and the licensing of gun owners. Although gun-control regulations differ from state to state, the State of New York’s gun-control laws are particularly strict and carry severe penalties for the possession of illegal or unlicensed firearms.

The legal requirements for rifles and shotguns are typically less restrictive than those for buying and carrying handguns. However, gun laws in New York City (5 boroughs) and certain other cities are generally stricter than state laws. Visitors to New York City may be unaware that a handgun properly registered in their home state may constitute a felony offense if it is carried here in the city. Some New York residents may not even realize that carrying a licensed firearm in certain places, such as on school grounds, may also be a crime.

Criminal Possession
Under New York law, criminal possession of a firearm occurs when a person possesses any firearm that is not licensed or registered. A person commits criminal possession of a weapon if they are not properly licensed to carry the particular gun, or if they are not legally allowed to carry any firearm, due to a prior felony conviction or other legal reasons. In addition, it is illegal to carry certain types of automatic firearms, as well as any firearm that has been defaced to hide or change its serial or identification numbers.

These offenses are considered strict liability offenses and are not “mens rea” crimes, meaning that the concept of mental intent is not required here. With strict liability offenses, it does not matter whether you knew the law or had the intention of break the law by possessing the illegal or unlicensed firearm. With strict liability offenses, ignorance of the law is no defense. The standard is not that you knew or didn’t know you possessed the firearm without the requisite permits in New York, but only that you knowingly possessed the gun.

Prior to March 2013, possession of an unloaded gun could “only” be charged as a misdemeanor. However, after March 2013, what used to “only” be a misdemeanor crime has now become a felony offense in New York State. If you are arrested with an unlicensed or unregistered firearm (a pistol or revolver, for example) in New York City, Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, White Plains, Yonkers or any other municipality, the police and prosecutors can arrest and charge you with a felony offense.

Here’s a kicker, while possession of an unloaded gun is a less serious charge then a loaded gun, in New York, a gun does not have to actually have ammunition inside of it to be considered “loaded”. Say what? Well, in a nutshell, if you are in possession of an unloaded gun AND you also are in possession of ammunition for that gun, that’s a “loaded gun” under New York law.

Although felony charges are already very serious, the charges may also be enhanced if extenuating factors are present, ie. if the defendant has a previous criminal history or if the firearm was used in the commission of another crime. A person convicted of a felony for possession of an illegal or unlicensed firearm will usually receive a mandatory minimum prison sentence. Illegal weapons possession felonies can be punishable by a sentence of up to four years in prison whether you have a criminal past or not.

If you have any questions or legal needs, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.

This document/post/article is not to be considered as legal advice. Content and information contained herein is subject to changes, modifications, and may contain inaccuracies or out-of-date information. As with any legal matter or other matters of importance, consultation with an attorney or professional is the best course of action.