FIREARMS AND WEAPONS CRIMES

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Hinman Law Blog

Firearms and Weapons Crimes

Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Most gun crimes have minimum mandatory penalties, meaning that if you are convicted, the judge has no leeway in the jail or prison sentence that you receive. Hiring an attorney who is experienced with firearms cases will give you the best chance of achieving a favorable result. Criminal Attorney Hinman has handled hundreds of gun and drug cases throughout Boston, and has an in-depth knowledge of the way that gun cases are investigated by law enforcement and prosecuted by the state.

Defending a Gun Case

Many gun and drug cases hinge on whether or not the initial stop and seizure of the gun was lawful under the Constitution of the United States and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. A judge at a Motion to Suppress Evidence Hearing will hear these issues. This is a crucial step in the process, as it can mean the difference between a dismissal of your case or proceeding to trial. If the judge finds that the firearm was seized in a manner that violated your constitutional rights, then the prosecution will not be able to use this evidence at trial, and your case will likely be dismissed. Additionally, we will explore any statements that you may have made to the police to assess whether or not they were obtained in a lawful manner. Throughout her career, Attorney Hinman has argued thousands of Motions to Suppress evidence. She has worked closely with law enforcement during the course of drug and gun investigations, and supervised the authoring and issuance of search warrants. Because of this experience, she is well versed on the criteria that must be met by police, and can easily evaluate a search warrant for possible deficiencies.

In addition to evaluating your case for constitutional issues, there are many defenses that can be used, even when the seizure of the gun is found to be lawful. The prosecution has the high burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the firearm was operational, that you exercised actual possession of the firearm, and that you had knowledge of the firearm. Each of these elements that the state must prove have their own set of complexities. For example, if you were the passenger in a vehicle where a gun was recovered, the prosecution has to prove that you knew the gun was there. There are also chain of custody issues that need to be assessed, as the police and ballistics analyst are required to follow stringent protocols when it comes to evidence storage, testing the firearm, and recovering any fingerprints present on the firearm.

TYPES OF GUN AND WEAPONS OFFENSES

Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Outside of the Home or Residence

Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 269, Sec. 10 pertains to illegal gun possession. In Massachusetts, it is a crime to possess a firearm without a valid license or Firearms Identification (FID) Card. The penalty depends on whether or not the illegal possession occurred in your residence or outside of your residence. A conviction for Possession of a Firearm outside of the home carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 18 months in jail or 2 ½ years in state prison. You will not be eligible for parole or early release until the minimum mandatory period has been completed. If the firearm is loaded, you will face an additional minimum mandatory 2.5-year jail sentence that will run consecutive to any sentence you receive for gun possession. If this is your second offense, you will likely be facing indictment by a Grand Jury and prosecution in Superior Court. A second gun offense carries a minimum mandatory 5-year state prison sentence. A third offense carries a minimum mandatory 7-year state prison sentence and a maximum of 10 years.

Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in Your Home/Residence

Possession of a Firearm without a valid license or FID card while in your home or residence is considered a misdemeanor, and the maximum penalty is 2 years in jail and a $500 fine. The main issue in this type of case will likely be whether or not a search of your home, or police presence in your home, was in violation of your Constitutional rights.

Possession of Ammunition

It is a crime in Massachusetts to possess ammunition without a valid license/FID card. This crime is governed by the same chapter as Unlawful Possession of a Firearm while at home, and is also considered a misdemeanor for which the maximum penalty is 2 years in jail.

Possession of a Large Capacity Weapon or Feeding Device

Possessing a large capacity firearm or feeding device without a valid license is a serious crime in Massachusetts, and imposes a minimum state prison sentence of 2.5 years and a maximum of 10 years. A large capacity firearm or magazine is defined as one that holds 10 or more rounds of ammunition or 5 rounds of shotgun shells to be fed continuously into a weapon or shotgun. If you are charged with a large capacity firearm offense, you will likely be facing indictment before a Grand Jury and prosecution is Superior Court.

Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony

If you have been charged with any type of felony, and were found to be in possession of a gun during its commission, you are facing a minimum mandatory 5-year prison sentence. If the firearm meets the definition of large capacity, you will be facing a minimum mandatory 10-year state prison sentence. These penalties are in addition to any jail or prison sentence you receive for the underlying felony.

Possession of a Machine Gun or Sawed-Off Shotgun

Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 140, Section 121 defines a machine gun as a weapon from which a number of shots or bullets may be rapidly or automatically discharged by one continuous activation of the trigger. A sawed-off shotgun is defined under the same statute as any weapon made from a shotgun that is altered or modified and has one or more barrels less than 18-inches in length or an overall length of less than 26-inches. Conviction of this offense can carry a life prison sentence, with a minimum mandatory of 18 months in jail.

Armed Career Criminal Statute

Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 269, Section 10G imposes enhanced penalties for firearms offenses if you have previously been convicted of a violent crime or serious drug offense. Under this statute, you will be indicted by a Grand Jury and prosecuted in superior court. There are minimum mandatory penalties that depend on your number of prior offenses. You may be facing anywhere from 3 to 15 years in state prison.

If you have been charged with a gun offense in Boston, Wellesley, Natick, Needham, Framingham, Wayland, Sudbury, Billerica, Waltham, Watertown, Somerville, Medford, Newton, Dedham, or anywhere in Middlesex, Norfolk, or Suffolk Counties, contact Attorney Hinman for immediate assistance at 617-283-4480 or using the form to the left.