Felon in Possession of a Firearm Charges: How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Fight Them
Being charged with felon in possession of a firearm can lead to serious consequences like prison time, hefty fines, and losing your right to own guns. But an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight these charges and avoid harsh penalties. This article will explain felon in possession laws, penalties, and defenses so you understand your options if facing these charges.
What Does “Felon in Possession” Mean?
Felon in possession laws make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to possess a firearm or ammunition. This applies to felonies at both the state and federal level.
The federal law is 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which bans possession of firearms by anyone convicted of:
- A federal crime punishable by over 1 year in prison
- A state crime punishable by over 1 year in prison
- A misdemeanor domestic violence offense
So having any felony conviction on your record makes firearm possession a crime.
Florida’s law is similar. Florida Statute 790.23 says felons cannot have “care, custody, possession, or control” of firearms, ammunition, or other weapons like tear gas. This includes:
- Felonies in Florida
- Felonies in other states or countries
- Juvenile felonies
The definition of “convicted felon” also includes juveniles who commit acts that would be felonies if charged as an adult.
Penalties for Felon in Possession
The penalties for illegally possessing firearms as a felon are severe:
Under 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(2), the penalty is up to 10 years in federal prison. For people with 3 prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses, there is a mandatory minimum of 15 years under the Armed Career Criminal Act.
Nearly 98% of federal felon in possession cases end in prison time according to U.S. Sentencing Commission data. The average sentence was 64 months.
In Florida, felon in possession is a second-degree felony under 790.23. This can mean up to 15 years in state prison and fines up to $10,000.
There is also a mandatory minimum of 3 years prison for defendants with actual physical possession of a firearm.
With such high stakes, having an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical. An attorney can evaluate the evidence against you and build the strongest defense to avoid harsh punishment.
Common Defenses Against Felon in Possession Charges
Proving felon in possession requires showing a prior felony conviction and that you knowingly possessed a firearm. An attorney can challenge both elements to fight the charges. Some common defenses include:
Lack of Knowing Possession
The prosecution must prove you knowingly possessed the firearm. But if the gun was found in your home or car, you can argue you did not know about it. For example, if a gun was left by a passenger in your car without your knowledge.
The defense is stronger if others had access to the location where the gun was found. You can argue the firearm belonged to someone else without your knowing.
No Actual or Constructive Possession
The law recognizes both actual and constructive possession. Actual possession means physically holding the firearm. Constructive possession means having control over the location where it was found.
If a gun was found in your house, you can argue you had no control over the part of the home where it was located. For example, if others like roommates or family members shared access.
Invalid Predicate Felony
The prosecution must prove a prior qualifying felony conviction. But the conviction could be invalid if:
- Your civil rights were restored after serving the sentence
- The conviction was expunged or pardoned
- You were a juvenile but tried as an adult illegally
Showing the predicate felony is invalid or unconstitutional can defeat the charges.
Illegal Search and Seizure
If police found the firearm through an illegal search, an attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence. For example, if they searched your car without consent or probable cause.
Having the gun excluded from evidence would destroy the prosecution’s case.
How a Lawyer Can Help Fight Felon in Possession Charges
The penalties for illegally possessing firearms as a felon are severe under both federal and Florida law. But an experienced criminal defense attorney can thoroughly analyze the evidence and build a strong defense to avoid conviction.
A lawyer can also negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or sentencing leniency. And if necessary, they can take your case to trial and argue to a jury why you should be found not guilty.
Don’t risk taking on the legal system alone against serious felon in possession charges. An attorney knows how to effectively challenge these cases and help protect your rights and freedom. They will make sure you get the best possible outcome if facing prosecution for this offense.
About the Author
John Smith is a criminal defense attorney with 15 years experience representing clients charged with felon in possession and other weapons offenses. He is dedicated to protecting the rights of those accused of crimes and achieving the best resolutions.
Mr. Smith earned his law degree from the University of Florida and is licensed to practice in all Florida courts. He is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
If you or a loved one are facing charges for felon in possession of a firearm or other weapons crimes in Florida, contact criminal defense lawyer John Smith for a free consultation. He will carefully review your case and advise you of all possible defenses and options to protect your future.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if police find a gun in my house or car?
If you share access to the location with others, you may be able to argue you did not know about the firearm or have control over where it was found. This could defeat constructive possession charges.
Can I go to jail for handling a friend’s gun at the range?
Yes, handling or shooting a gun can qualify as illegal possession by a felon. It does not matter if the firearm belongs to someone else. Never use a firearm without clearing this first with an attorney.
Do all felony convictions qualify?
Almost all state and federal felonies trigger the prohibition, including white collar crimes. Some exceptions are felonies with civil rights restored and certain juvenile adjudications.
Can a felon ever legally own a gun?
In rare cases, a convicted felon can petition the court to restore their gun ownership rights. But this is difficult and rarely granted. It’s best to avoid firearms altogether rather than risk prosecution.
What if the gun was for self-defense only?
There is no self-defense exception for felon in possession charges, though some states allow it. The prohibition applies even if you did not use the firearm illegally.
Felon in possession laws impose severe penalties, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can thoroughly analyze the evidence against you and build a strong defense. In many cases, charges can be defeated pre-trial or negotiated to a more favorable resolution.
Never take on the legal system alone if facing prosecution for illegal firearm possession. An attorney knows how to protect your rights and help you avoid harsh mandatory minimum sentences. With an aggressive defense, many of these charges can be successfully fought.