Although the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to bear arms, federal law prohibits certain people from possessing firearms, explosives, and ammunition, as well as biological agents and toxins. Possession by restricted persons can include a number of scenarios, and the government's statutes include several definitions of restricted persons and the penalties they can face if convicted of a related crime.
If you were arrested or are under investigation by federal authorities for possession by a restricted person, you should immediately consult an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to help you understand the laws, advise you of your rights and options, and work with you to develop an effective defense.
Federal Laws Regarding Possession by Restricted Persons
The U.S. government has several statutes that cover possession by restricted persons. The government defines a “restricted person” as anyone who:
- Was convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison
- Is a fugitive from justice
- Has a certified mental health issue or is confined to a mental hospital
- Is an illegal alien
- Has renounced their U.S. citizenship
- Was dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces
- Was convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence
- Has a restraining order against them for stalking, harassing, or threatening an intimate partner or child of an intimate partner
The law also includes people under indictment for a felony or any offense punishable by more than a year in prison. You can also face charges if you sell or give a firearm or ammunition to any restricted person.
- Any weapon designed or readily converted to expel a projectile by use of explosives
- The frame or receiver of any such weapon
- Any firearm muffler or silencer
- Any destructive device
Destructive devices include bombs, grenades, certain rockets and missiles, mines, or any other similar device. The law further breaks down definitions regarding specific types of guns, such as shotguns and rifles, as well as ammunition. The law also has provisions regarding minors under 18, as well as adults under 21, from purchasing or possessing certain types of guns.
Additionally, the Arms Export Control Act prohibits any person convicted of certain federal violations from getting a license to own or trade in firearms. It is also illegal to ship, transport, deal, manufacture, or conduct any transactions across state or country borders that involve firearms if you are not a licensed firearms dealer.
Penalties for Possession by Restricted Persons
The federal government has jurisdiction over restricted persons who violate the law. However, regardless of who was involved, the government can prosecute any crime involving firearms, explosives, or dangerous devices if the crime occurred across state lines or country borders or involved interstate or foreign commerce. The government can also prosecute crimes that occurred on federal property, or if you threaten, injure, or kill any federal officer or employee.
With respect to possession by restricted persons specifically, prison sentences can range from a year to five years in prison, but prison sentences can go as high as 10 years for certain offenses. You can also receive enhanced penalties of up to 15 years in prison if you have prior felony convictions for violent crimes or drug crimes, such as:
- Drug trafficking
- Possession or use of a dangerous weapon
You can also get up to 10 years in prison if you knowingly give, sell, or otherwise provide a firearm, explosive, or ammunition to a restricted person. Furthermore, if the government successfully prosecutes you for any ancillary crime, such as assault, you can receive additional sentences on top of the penalties you receive for the underlying possession by restricted person charge.
Biological Agents and Toxins
Along with firearms and other dangerous devices, the government prohibits restricted persons from shipping, transporting, or receiving certain biological agents and toxins. The government has a long list of select agents and toxins, and they are broadly defined as anything that poses a severe threat to human, animal, and plant health.
A restricted person found who possesses, transports, or transfers select biological agents and toxins can receive up to five years in prison along with fines. Prison sentences can go as high as 10 years for crimes that affect interstate or foreign commerce, and you can also receive additional charges and penalties for ancillary crimes.
Defenses for Possession by Restricted Persons
The government takes crimes involving possession by restricted persons seriously and prosecutes them aggressively. Still, they must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and you have the right to defend yourself against the charges.
You want to work with an experienced federal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you build a solid defense. Upon reviewing your case, your lawyer may identify defense options that can include:
- You are not a restricted person and have every right to possess or carry a firearm.
- The weapon in question is not a prohibited weapon.
- The crime did not cross state or national boundaries or affect interstate or foreign commerce.
- You are a licensed firearm dealer in good standing.
- Authorities confiscated the weapon during an illegal search and seizure.
If you are charged with selling or giving a firearm to a restricted person, you may have a defense if you didn't know the person was prohibited from possessing a firearm. The person may have also lied to you or coerced you into selling them the gun under false pretenses. Additionally, you may also have a defense if you can show your conduct and that the weapons or agents involved were authorized and exempted under the law.
Contact an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney Immediately
For a complete and objective review of your case and advice regarding your rights and options, you can contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team for help. Attorney Lento has many years of experience defending clients in New Jersey District Court for possession by restricted persons and other federal charges.
Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or fill out our contact form to request a confidential consultation.