Federal Weapons Charges
The penalties for a conviction for federal firearm charges in cases involving drug trafficking or violence are very severe with mandatory minimum sentences of five, seven, ten and thirty years for a first time offender. These convictions will also be served consecutively as opposed to concurrently which can create an exceedingly prolonged sentence when combined or "*stacked" as it is characterized *see example below).
Breaking down the numbers, a conviction that meets the above criteria is calculated by terms of years of incarceration based on three individual factors. Whether the gun is solely possessed during the commission of a crime, displayed (brandished) to the victim, or discharged (fired).
A five year mandatory minimum sentence will be put into effect for a first time offender, solely for possessing a firearm while committing a crime. The sentence for a conviction for the underlying crime will be added to this punishment.
If the weapon is a short barreled rifle or shotgun, the sentence is doubled to ten years. For a second instance of any of these offenses the mandatory minimum sentence increases to twenty-five years. Further, if the weapon is a machine gun, a **destructive device or a firearm equipped with a silencer, a first time offender will face a thirty year mandatory minimum sentence. In this type of situation, a second time offender would be required to serve life in prison.
For a first-time offender, in a case when a gun is displayed or suggested to the target of an imminent criminal action, with the intent of intimidation, a conviction will produce a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years, in addition to any prison term specified for the primary crime if there is one. The same sentences mentioned above will apply in the case of a short barreled rifle or shotgun as well as mirroring the sentence when a machine gun or destructive device is used, as described above. For a second offense of this nature, the sentence will have a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty-five years in prison, excluding cases involving the use of a machine gun or destructive device which will return a lifetime sentence.
When the gun is discharged, the same sentences apply as if it were similarly brandished with exception to a first time offender's mandatory minimum sentence being raised from seven to ten years. All other penalties remain the same.
*An example of a *consecutive (stacked) sentence would be as follows:
An individual is convicted of the sale of a Schedule I drug such as marijuana which was distributed on three separate occasions while he was in possession of a firearm. They were arrested, tried and convicted of the drug charges as well as three counts of firearms possession (§ 924(C)). The narcotics conviction holds a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison which would be added to the three counts of gun possession which hold mandatory penalties of five years for the first offense and twenty-five years for each the second and third count. Because the sentence would be served consecutively, their total sentence would amount to sixty years.
**A destructive device is defined as a type of weapon, such as a firearm or other apparatus categorized as a semi-automatic firearm as well as guns with the interior of their barrel (bore) over one half of an inch which can cause an explosive reaction when fired. It is defined under the National Firearms Act and has been amended under the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act as well as the Gun Control Act put into effect that same year.
Some of the other offenses that are investigated by the government involving firearms are illegal possession, sale and trafficking as well as altering, destroying or removing a serial number of the weapon in question. Possession by a convicted felon is illegal as well as the use by an unregistered person or an individual possessing one as the result of a straw purchase (a purchase by proxy). All of these offenses are usually investigated for the government by the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).
Due to the severity of the sentences for the crimes listed in this commentary it's crucial that if you, a family member or friend is charged with any of them, a defense attorney who's an expert in federal criminal defense is relied upon.
If charges have been filed for any kind of weapons violation or gun charge under federal law, my law firm is dedicated to offering the best possible defense relating to any federal criminal allegations brought forward by the government. As a former Assistant United States Attorney, I personally offer an aggressive and experienced federal criminal defense. To view all of my qualifications and understand what you should do if you or someone you care about is facing federal charges relating to a gun charge or weapons violation, as well as any other federal charge, click here.