“Felon in Possession of Firearm” Charges: What You Need to Know
If you face charges for “Felon in Possession of a Firearm” in North Carolina, you’re undoubtedly dealing with a stressful and confusing situation. This serious charge has hefty legal consequences that can severely impact your future. Find out what these charges mean, the potential penalties, and your options for legal defense.
Knowing the ins and outs of this charge can make a significant difference in your outcome in the North Carolina legal system.
What Does North Carolina Law Say About Felony Possession of a Firearm?
According to North Carolina General Statute § 14-415.1, if you face conviction of a felony in North Carolina or any other jurisdiction, you may not legally possess firearms unless the state restores your rights.
If you’ve faced conviction of a felony crime, it’s illegal to do any of the following with firearms:
- Have in your custody, care, or control
The law defines a firearm as “any weapon, including a starter gun, which may expel a projectile by the action of an explosive, or its frame or receiver. It also includes any muffler or silencer. However, as defined in G.S. 14-409.11, antique firearms are an exception to the rule.
Which Felonies Prevent Handling Firearms in NC?
In North Carolina, the laws are quite explicit that any and all felonies prohibit an individual from owning, possessing, or purchasing firearms. Unless the crime is no longer on your record, you cannot legally handle firearms.
There is litigation happening about whether the laws preventing firearms for felons are constitutional.
Supreme Court Ruling May Bring Relief Eventually
On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court made a big decision about gun laws in New York. The Court said that New York’s old rules for carrying a gun in public were not allowed anymore. Before, you had to show a really good reason to get a permit to carry a hidden gun in public. The Court said that this rule broke the Second Amendment, which is the part of the U.S. Constitution that talks about the right to have guns.
The Court also changed how other courts should think about gun laws. Before, when a court looked at a gun law, it would weigh how much the law helps public safety against how much it limits someone’s right to have a gun. This is similar to what courts do for other rights like free speech. But now, the Supreme Court says there’s a new way to look at these cases, which could make it harder for states to have strict gun laws.
The Court also said that not all gun laws would be thrown out because of this new way of looking at things. For example, the Court pointed out that some states have clear rules for who can get a permit to carry a hidden gun. Those states’ rules might still be okay.
Justice Kavanaugh, one of the judges, added his own thoughts. He said that the Second Amendment does allow for different kinds of gun rules, like laws that keep guns out of places like schools. So, while the Court did make it harder for New York to limit who can carry a gun, it didn’t say all gun laws will get thrown out in other states. (1)
While all felony records prevent the possession of firearms in NC for now, some are harder or even impossible to ever remove from your record. Let’s look at some of these “difficult or impossible to remove” felonies next:
Examples of Felonies That May Remain On Your Record for Life
Violent crime convictions likely prevent the possibility of you ever legally handling firearms again. This includes offenses such as:
- Murder and Manslaughter: Convictions for first-degree or second-degree murder, as well as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
- Sexual Offenses: Including rape, sexual assault, and other related felonies.
- Assault Crimes: Assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, and battery.
- Robbery and Burglary: This includes armed robbery and first-degree burglary..
- Crimes Involving Firearms or Explosives
Serious Drug Offenses
In North Carolina, felony drug convictions can often be impossible to expunge. Depending on the class of felony you face, these crimes can prevent you from ever handling firearms.
- Drug Trafficking
- Manufacture of Controlled Substances
- Possessing with Intent to Distribute Certain Drugs
It’s also worth mentioning that a felony conviction from another state that corresponds to a crime that would be a felony in North Carolina also disqualifies an individual from possessing firearms in North Carolina.
It’s crucial to understand that legal restrictions prevent firearm possession after a felony conviction in NC. The legal consequences can be severe if you’re a felon found in unlawful possession of a firearm.
Therefore, consulting with a criminal defense attorney is vital to fully understand your rights and limitations according to North Carolina law.
Penalties for “Felon in Possession of a Firearm” Charges
According to the law, every person with convicted felon charges for possessing a firearm shall be punished as a Class G felon. If you are found guilty of these charges, you face severe penalties, including:
- Prison time from 8 to 31 months
- Criminal record
- Court fees
- Judge-imposed fines
- Attorney fees
- Difficulty finding employment, housing, getting credit
Because the penalties are so harsh, it makes sense to understand the defenses available to you in North Carolina. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can often help reduce or dismiss these grave charges.
How Can I Defend Against “Felon in Possession of a Firearm” Charges?
Facing a “Felon in Possession of a Firearm” charge in North Carolina can be a serious and daunting ordeal. These charges come with severe penalties, including potential imprisonment and steep fines. However, various defenses can challenge such charges. It’s crucial to work with a competent attorney who understands the intricacies of North Carolina law to develop a strong defense strategy.
Consult an Attorney Early On
The first step in defending against a “Felon in Possession of a Firearm” charge is to consult a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you get legal counsel, the better your chances of building a robust defense.
Challenge the Legality of the Search and Seizure
Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 20 of the North Carolina Constitution, you have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police obtained the firearm illegally, the evidence might be inadmissible in court.
Mistaken Identity or False Accusation
Proving that you were falsely accused or there is a case of mistaken identity can also be a strong defense. This requires gathering evidence that supports your claim and discredits the prosecution’s case.
Lack of Possession
North Carolina law requires an “actual or constructive” felon in possession to convict someone of this charge (NC General Statute § 14-415.1). If you can show that you neither owned the firearm nor had any control over it, you may be able to counter the charges.
Restoration of Rights
According to North Carolina General Statute § 14-415.4, certain individuals may have their firearms rights restored under specific conditions. If you meet these conditions, this could serve as a complete defense to the charges.
In rare circumstances, you might argue that you were unaware you had the firearm or that someone forced you to possess it against your will. However, this is often difficult to prove and should be discussed thoroughly with your attorney.
Each case is unique and requires individualized evaluation by a competent attorney to determine the best approach for defense. Ignorance of the law is generally not considered a valid defense. Therefore, the sooner you understand your legal standing, the better equipped you’ll be to navigate the complexities of your case effectively.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help Defend Your Rights
At Scharff Law, we understand that facing “felon in possession of firearm” charges in North Carolina can be a life-altering experience. The stakes are high, and the legal landscape is complex. We can help you navigate through this challenging time. From evaluating the specifics of your case to formulating a robust criminal defense strategy, we stand by you every step of the way.
We start by thoroughly reviewing the circumstances of your arrest and the evidence against you. Our goal is to challenge any constitutional infringements, such as unlawful search and seizure. We also scrutinize the prosecution’s case for any weaknesses.
Time is of the essence when defending against serious charges. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the more options you’ll have for building a strong defense. With years of experience and a dedication to upholding your civil rights throughout, Scharff Law is prepared to provide the legal advocacy you need.
Don’t go it alone when so much is on the line. Reach out to us at Scharff Law for a free consultation, and let us help you take back control of your life.