A person who possesses a gun can be charged with a crime if he is disqualified from legally possessing the weapon. The charge can be based on state law where the gun is possessed within the boundaries of a state. Or the charge can be based on federal law whenever the gun travels interstate.
Federal law says it is a felony to possess a firearm if the person has been convicted of a felony offense. This law is Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g).
One felony conviction makes it a federal crime to possess a firearm that has traveled interstate. The fact that the conviction relates to a non-violent offense does not matter. Even a conviction for driving with a suspended or revoked license (if it was a felony) causes that person to lose his right to possess a gun.
Felonies differ under the laws of each state. For example, where one state calls an offense grand larceny, another would say it is theft. The definition of a felony under federal law is any offense for which the penalty could have been more than one year of imprisonment. If the defendant was sentenced to probation and no imprisonment, then he is still a convicted felon and disqualified from possessing a firearm.
The following people are disqualified from possessing a firearm and can be charged with a federal offense if the firearm or any of its parts travels interstate:
- Any person convicted of a felony.
- Any person who is a fugitive from justice (but the flight must be interstate).
- Drug addicts.
- Illegal aliens, as well as aliens without permanent resident status.
- Any person who is mentally ill or has been committed to a mental institution.
- A person who has renounced US citizenship.
- Former military who have been dishonorably discharged.
- Any person who is subject to a restraining order concerning a domestic relationship.
- Any person who has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence, even if it was a misdemeanor.
See 18 USC 922(g).
The penalties for possession of a firearm in violating of federal law are severe. The court can sentence the offender to 10 years in federal prison. See 18 USC 922(n). In some cases, the sentence is enhanced because of the offender’s background.
Where the person has a criminal history including 3 convictions for any felony crime of violence or drug trafficking, then the minimum sentence is 15 years prison. See 18 USC 924(e).
In any case where the US Attorney has charged someone with a federal firearms offense, the outcome can be devastating. It is crucial to consult with a criminal attorney whose practice emphasizes federal crimes.