The New York Penal Code has many different statutes and regulations concerning the possession of firearms and other potentially dangerous weapons. While these regulations are designed to keep people safe, special consideration is afforded to educational institutions, where gun violence is considered to be especially heinous. This special consideration has manifested itself as additional regulations related specifically to weapons on school grounds. As a result of New York Penal Code § 265.01-a, shotguns, rifles, and firearms are all prohibited on school property without any form of prior authorization from the educational institution itself. For the purposes of this statute, “school” is defined as referring to any school, college, or university. Although the definition for school is fairly broad, it does not include the forestry lands that are owned by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. It is also worth noting that this statute does not apply to school buses either.
Examples of Weapon Charges on School Grounds
One of the most straightforward examples of criminally possessing a weapon on school grounds is when someone is found to have a gun on their person, oftentimes as a result of a separate and unrelated stop by police officers. Of course, there are also situations in which a person willfully and openly enters school grounds with a firearm, in which case the person can potentially face even more serious repercussions.
Defending Against Weapon Charges on School Grounds
When someone is faced with a charge for criminally possessing a weapon on school grounds, the main defense is to prove that the search which led to the weapon’s discovery was unlawful. For instance, if someone was walking on a college campus when they were stopped by police, any weapon found could potentially be inadmissible, unless the police had a valid reason for the stop to begin with. NYC criminal lawyers can help protect their client’s rights by proving that any evidence obtained from the unwarranted stop was in violation of the client’s rights and was therefore unlawful. If a charge is found to have resulted from an unlawful stop, then there isn’t much room for the prosecutor to establish a counter-argument.
Sentencing for Weapon Charges on School Grounds
In the state of New York, criminally possessing a weapon on school grounds is considered to be a class E felony, which means it can lead to a prison sentence of up to four years. In addition to serving time in prison, a person found guilty could also potentially be held liable for a fine, as well as probation for up to five years. Although weapon charges on school grounds are treated seriously, there is some room for leniency, depending on the defendant’s history. For instance, if this is the first time the defendant has had an issue with weapon charges, or otherwise had a relatively small criminal history, then there is a good chance that the judge will hand down a reduced sentence.
The potential for a reduced sentence means that defendants need to present themselves in the best way possible, so that the judge will not be inclined to deliver the maximum sentence instead. For this reason, a lawyer can help ensure that the court proceedings preserve the reputation of the defendant and portray the client in a balanced manner.