When learning about federal weapons charges, the first thing to remember would be that firearms alone do not represent the entirety of weapons charges. While handguns and rifles obviously meet the legal requirements of a weapon, weapons charges can also be brought up in situations involving bombs, chemical weapons, and certain kinds of knives or stabbing weapons.
Federal weapons charges generally break down into four specific categories, although overlap can occur between the four categories.
• Unlawful Possession
Regarding firearms, unlawful possession can refer to an individual possessing a weapon without the appropriate license, possessing a firearm without the serial numbers or other registration data, or being a convicted felon in possession of a weapon, ammunition, or any weapon-related contraband material.
For weapons other than firearms, unlawful possession can refer to weapons specifically prohibited from being owned by anyone, such as switchblade knives or flail-type weapons.
Unlawful possession also applies in situations where the person has weapons and weapons material in their possession, even if the weapons and material do not function. For example, if a person with a prior felony conviction possesses a firearm that no longer functions as designed, the person would still be guilty of unlawful possession. This would also apply in situations where the weapons and/or weapon parts were kept in a locked safety box or completely disassembled with the parts scattered in different locations.
• Firearms Trafficking
Every firearm in the United States can be legally purchased and sold by licensed dealers that obey laws regarding the sale of such items. However, it’s possible to legally purchase firearms and then sell those through secondary markets. Such activities would qualify as firearms trafficking and would apply in situations where the firearms get transported for the purpose of such shadow sales, either to local markets or those located out of state.
While every U.S. state has specific laws and penalties regarding firearm trafficking, illegally shifting the firearms over the state and/or national borders would elevate the crime to a federal offense.
• Violent Crimes with a Firearm
Given the regularity of violent crimes being committed by persons in possession of a firearm, this offense may seem a little redundant. However, it’s important to clarify that violent crimes get defined as crimes where the victim or victims have either been threatened or physically harmed with violence.
Violent crimes do not necessarily require physical contact or injury to qualify as being violent. The threat of violence by itself can be traumatizing for the victim, even if the person making the threat has no actual intention of following through on the threat. As such, threatening to shoot someone with any firearm would qualify as a violent crime with a firearm, even if the perpetrator never actually fired a shot.
Fraud with weapons tends to refer to situations where a person came into possession of the weapon through fraudulent practices.
For example, a person may have purchased an illegal weapon through the black market or another venue that did not require the person to register the weapon or to produce verification of their identity. It would also apply to situations where a person purchased the weapon legally but had a fake permit to justify ownership of the weapon.
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West Palm Beach attorneys Jacqueline Crowley and Adam Farkas have experience and skill in representing clients accused of crimes. For criminal defense for federal weapons charges, contact Farkas and Crowley P.A. today.