In New York, weapons charges are serious. Possession or selling a gun or weapon illegally in New York City can result in felony charges — which may lead to jail time. Criminal possession or use of a weapon is considered a violent crime, and in many cases, carries mandatory minimum jail terms. If you’ve been charged with possessing, using or selling a gun or other weapon in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx or Staten Island, you will need a highly skilled criminal defense attorney on your side.
I’ve been practicing criminal defense law for more than 20 years. I understand gun and weapons laws, and how prosecutors typically handle these cases. I’ll work collaboratively with you to determine how exactly the arrest happened and to figure out the best way to resolve your case to help you move forward with your life.
New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, with tough sentences for possessing a gun illegally or owning a gun that it illegal. Criminal possession of a gun can be charged in a variety of ways:
In 2006, the New York State Legislature changed the law to make Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree a class C felony (rather than a class D). This means that if you’re convicted of this crime — even with no prior criminal record — you could be sentenced to between 3 and a half to fifteen years of imprisonment.
These weapons charges can happen if you either have an illegal weapon — such as a machine gun — or if you possess a weapon illegally, such as if you have a concealed, loaded weapon outside of your home or business. The laws regarding criminal possession of a firearm are written broadly, allowing prosecutors to bring charges on thin facts. If you’ve previously been convicted of a crime — even a non-violent offense — then the charge can be elevated to a higher-level felony, bringing additional minimum jail time.
Possessing a gun illegally or an illegal gun is just one cause of a criminal possession charge in New York. In addition, you could be charged with a felony crime for simply owning certain weapons.
These weapons include: electronic dart guns, stun guns, gravity knives, switchblade knives, metal knuckle knives, pilum ballistic knives, cane swords, blackjacks, billies, bludgeons, Chuka sticks, metal (and plastic), sandbags, sand clubs, knuckles, wrist-brace slingshots, and bullets containing an explosive substance designed to detonate on impact
There are other weapons which are only illegal if you intend to use them unlawfully against another person. These weapons are considered “per se” weapons. This means that you can be charged with a crime for just owning them — even if you do not intend to use them.
These include daggers, dangerous knives, dirks, razors, stilettos, imitation pistols, armor piercing ammunition or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon.
Possession of a weapon that would otherwise be classified as a misdemeanor is elevated to a class D felony if the person possessing the weapon has previously been convicted of a crime. If you’re accused of possessing an illegal weapon, and you’ve previously been convicted of a misdemeanor, such as DWI or shoplifting, you can be charged with a felony.
If you’ve previously been convicted of a crime, the partial defense of “possession in your home or place of business” does not apply to you.
If you’ve been charged with possessing a gun or any other weapon, you need to explore all possible defenses, including “suppression” resulting from an illegal search and seizure.
Suppression is a remedy that courts apply where police have illegally seized evidence. When suppression is granted, the prosecutor may not introduce illegally seized evidence at your trial. For example, if police entered your home and searched it without a warrant, consent, or “exigent circumstances” and found a gun inside your bedroom closet, the gun should be “suppressed.” If the gun is suppressed, the prosecutor can’t introduce evidence about the gun at your trial; this would typically result in the gun charges being dismissed.
The law of suppression is extremely complex. The bottom line is that police intrusion into a person’s privacy must be legally justified. If not justified, then evidence seized as a result of the intrusion must be suppressed.