It’s a question with a lot of different answers, but there are certain factors that can help clear up some of the confusion around unlawful possession of a firearm.
Different states have different levels of severity when it comes to gun laws, and as such, unlawful possession of a firearm can be categorized in a number of different ways. Some states only consider it a felony if an offense has occurred on multiple occasions, with the initial incident falling under the misdemeanor distinction. Other states are much stricter, with first-time offenses warranting a felony label.
In cases where possession of a firearm garners a punishment, the penalty can increase based on the factors surrounding the possession charge. A defendant that has been previously prohibited from possessing a firearm can face a much heftier punishment than one with no other offenses.
Factors about an Individual Influencing Unlawful Firearm Possession
Weapons that might otherwise be considered legal can become unlawfully possessed based on prior court decisions. These can include parole or probationary conditions, prior criminal convictions, and court-documented mental illness. Convicted felons are among those most commonly barred from possessing a firearm, and each state has its own laws regarding the limitations imposed on felons.
The charge faced by these individuals is called “felon in possession of a firearm,” and it carries a heavier punishment than unlawful firearm possession. Even defendants who are not previously convicted felons can still be impacted by possession of a firearm, however, as it can have long-term effects on things like parole eligibility and future employment.
Additionally, people who are addicted to controlled substances are prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal statutes. A simple firearm possession charge can have more charges tacked onto it if an individual is later discovered to have been an addict. This would make them a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, and the resulting penalty incurred would be much more serious than the alternative.
Geographical Factors Impacting Unlawful Possession of a Firearm
In states where a person can carry a firearm without incurring a charge of unlawful possession, there are still situations that can render such actions illegal. The person’s location can factor into the legality of the possession. For example, in many cases, it is unlawful to carry a weapon near a school, a place of worship, polling booths (during elections), and other specific locations that vary based on the state in question.
A person who possessed a weapon while committing another offense (like theft or burglary) faces an aggravated charge, which carries with it a much heavier penalty, depending on the laws of the state in which the arrest occurs.
An example of this would be if a defendant accused of stealing from a store who did so while displaying a gun as opposed to doing so without any show of force. Simply demanding the money without the firearm would have been considered a high-level misdemeanor in some states, while the gun’s presence makes it a felony that could come along with an extended prison sentence.
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