There are few things the federal government regulates more heavily than firearms. Due to these regulations, there is a wide variety of potential federal charges that could come from transporting, owning, or possessing a firearm. A conviction for a federal gun crime could have significant consequences.
These regulations cover far more than your standard pistol or rifle. Under federal law, any device that expels a projectile with some type of explosive force is a firearm. In addition to pistols and rifles, this also applies to shotguns and grenade launchers. In addition to the frames of a firearm, federal laws also regulate accessories like silencers and mufflers.
Regardless of the type of weapon involved, federal gun charges are serious. To give yourself a chance of avoiding a conviction, it is critical that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Doug Murphy is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer that knows how to win in federal court. Call today to learn more about beating the charges you are facing.
Common Federal Weapons Charges in Texas
The types of gun crimes federal prosecutors will pursue can vary. Like most federal crimes, any illegal activity that crosses state lines will likely fall under federal jurisdiction. In other situations, certain acts are always federal crimes regardless of where they take place. Federal and state firearm laws often overlap, but state prosecutors typically pursue the charge the feds do not. Some common federal offenses include:
Felon in Possession of a Firearm
The most common federal firearm charge involves a convicted felon possessing a weapon. Governed by 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), the prohibition on owning a firearm is one of the most notable collateral consequences that comes with a felony conviction. This ban applies to nearly all felony convictions in state or federal court, save crimes involving unfair trade practices or similar offenses.
Altering or Removing a Serial Number
Federal law requires every gun manufactured and sold to have a unique serial number identifying it. These serial numbers are used to identify weapons used in criminal acts as well as for recall purposes. Federal statute 18 U.S.C. Section 922(k) prevents altering or removing a serial number from a firearm for any purpose. Likewise, it is also illegal to own or transport a gun with a missing firearm. A conviction under this statute could lead to a maximum of five years in federal prison.
Firearm in a School Zone
All schools in the United States fall within a “gun-free zone.” These schools typically include signs that reflect bringing a weapon onto school grounds is a violation of federal law. Knowingly doing so is a violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 922(q). Knowingly is an important standard that the prosecutor must prove. If the defendant can show they were unaware a firearm was in their possession, they could avoid a conviction. This offense carries a maximum of five years in federal prison.
Selling Guns Without a License
The sale of firearms is closely regulated by the federal government. To sell a gun across state lines, you must have a federal license to do so. Selling a weapon in another state without this license is a violation of 18 U.S.C Section 922(a).
Even licensed dealers face a number of restrictions. These include limitations on:
- Selling automatic weapons
- Selling firearms to anyone under the legal purchasing age
- Selling guns to a felon
- Selling guns to an undocumented immigrant
- Selling destructive devices.
The important thing to remember about these crimes is that there is not a “knowing” statute. It is on the seller to ensure they do not violate these laws and face the consequences.
Examples of Weapons Charges that Could Occur in Houston
Understanding federal firearm charges can be complicated given the wide variety of crimes. Examples could help you wrap your mind around how these offenses are prosecuted. Consider the following examples.
Example #1: Possessing a Gun on School Grounds
Ted is a student at Local High School. Tired of being bullied, he takes a pistol from his parents' room and stuffs it into his backpack. While at school, someone sees the gun and notifies the administrators. Police stop Ted and seize the gun. Ted could face a federal firearms charge.
Example #2: Unknowingly carrying a Gun on School Grounds
Fred is an avid hunter. One morning before school, he spends several hours in the duck woods. When he is finished, he locks his shotgun into a hard case and places it into his trunk. Fred then lets his brother Tom borrow the car. Tom drives the car to school, not realizing a gun was in the trunk. Although Tom is on school grounds with a firearm, he does not do so knowingly. This could prevent a conviction at trial.
Example #3: Removing a Serial Number
Jack does not trust the federal government and does not want his firearms to be traceable. This is a preference; he has no intention of committing a crime with the gun. Jack intentionally sands off the serial number of one weapon. He alters the serial number on a different gun to appear as a different number altogether. Jack could face two federal gun crime charges for his actions.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction of Federal Weapons Charges in Texas
The penalties for each conviction discussed above are all serious. That said, the collateral consequences than can also come with a conviction are no laughing matter. In many cases, collateral consequences could haunt you long after a prison sentence is complete.
Federal gun crimes are primarily felonies. As a convicted felon, there are several rights you could lose permanently. This could include the right to vote or own a firearm. A felony conviction could also impact your personal life. Due to the prevalence of background checks, prospective employers or landlords could reject your application based on your criminal history alone.
Like with the statutory penalties, collateral consequences are avoidable if you prevail at trial. Given what is at stake, an attorney committed to helping you beat the charges against you could be valuable.
Defenses to Allegations of Federal Weapons Charges in Texas
Like with most crimes, there are useful defenses to many federal gun offenses. Some common defenses for federal gun crimes include:
- Antique Firearm: Antique or historical firearms often enjoy exceptions to some federal laws. There is no serial number requirement for these weapons, as they are treated as historical artifacts instead of working firearms.
- Constitutional Defenses: Many gun crimes involve the possession of a weapon. If the possession of a weapon was discovered during an illegal search or seizure by the government, it could act as a defense at trial. Your attorney could move the court to dismiss a case following a violation of the 4th Amendment or ask that any illegally discovered evidence be barred from trial.
- Knowing Possession: Many gun crimes require that you knew you were in possession of the weapon. This makes for an obvious defense if you were unaware that you had a gun in your possession or that the weapon did not comply with federal regulations.
The federal prosecutors are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have violated one or more federal statutes. If the jury finds these defenses persuasive, they could decide to acquit a defendant entirely. After all, you do not need to prove anything to win at trial. Your attorney's only job is to show the prosecutor failed to make a believable case.
Work with a Houston Federal Weapon Crimes Lawyer
Spending years in prison and a lifetime living as a convicted felon is not easy. This loss of freedom could have a dramatic effect on your ability to make a living or maintain your freedom.
If you are ready to protect your quality of life, it is time to discuss your options with a skilled federal gun crimes lawyer. Attorney Doug Murphy has built a career on aggressively advocating for those charged with a crime. He has learned over time that it is possible to beat federal prosecutors even when the evidence looks strong. To get started on your case, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away.