What You Need to Know About Federal Gun Charges

If you or someone in your family is with violating federal gun laws, contacting the most experienced federal gun defense lawyer near you is essential. While all federal criminal offenses require immediate, professional attention, gun charges are especially threatening to a defendant’s liberty.  


Not just any state court defense lawyer or attorney with limited federal experience can truly be trusted to handle the defense of a federal indictment that includes alleged gun crimes. Federal court is a world apart from state court, with special rules of procedure, an accelerated time in which the case will move toward trial, and a complicated scoring system that is used to determine the length of the prison sentence to be imposed. 


And in federal court, if you are charged with gun crimes, you are staring at a long prison term, often a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 5 years in federal prison. 


At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, in Tampa, we have years of experience defending federal crimes for clients facing serious gun and related charges. Contact us immediately if you need more information.  



What Types of Federal Gun Charges Get Prosecuted in Federal Court? 


The wide range of federal gun charges encompasses crimes involving unlawful possession of a gun during the commission of a drug crime, using the gun in the commission of such a crime, possessing a gun after being convicted of a felony, possessing a firearm in a restricted area, illegally selling a gun to someone without a license, selling guns to an unauthorized buyer, selling illegal firearms, or making false statements during a gun purchase. 


Each of these gun charges is considered very serious by federal prosecutors and federal judges. These kinds of gun charges often accompany other underlying crimes listed in separate counts of the indictment. Only the most qualified and experienced federal defense lawyers are competent enough to successfully challenge the evidence and prevent or reduce the penalties imposed by the court. 


Illegal Possession of a Firearm 


A federal indictment for Illegal possession of a firearm can be based on a variety of fact patterns. The nature of the firearm in question could be the determining factor of illegality, as with a machine gun. Federal gun charges will be filed against persons who possess a machine gun that traveled across state lines. Similarly, knowingly possessing a stolen firearm, possessing a firearm with the serial number obliterated, or being a fugitive from justice in possession of a firearm will trigger a federal criminal indictment. It’s also a federal offense for a member of the armed service who was dishonorably discharged to possess either a firearm or ammunition. 


Federal law also prohibits the possession of a firearm in certain locations, like near a school. 


In each of these scenarios, there must be some interstate transportation or cross-border activity triggering the federal government’s jurisdiction.  


False Statements When Purchasing a Gun 


Providing a false statement during the purchase of a firearm is a federal crime. The penalty can be as high as 10 years in federal prison. Among the information a gun purchaser must provide to the seller is whether the buyer is a drug user or a drug addict. Withholding this information during a gun purchase is a separate federal gun crime that carries up to an additional 5 years in federal prison.  


“Straw Man Purchases” are also a violation of federal law carrying up to 10 years in federal prison. A straw-man purchase is one in which someone purchases a firearm from a licensed seller intending to transfer the firearm to a person they know is ineligible to make a legal purchase themselves.  


Possession of a Firearm or Ammo by a Convicted Felon 


Convicted felons are barred from possessing firearms or ammunition by federal law. For purposes of this section of the law,  a “convicted felon” is anyone who has been convicted of an offense for which they could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for more than one year. It includes convictions suffered in any court, not just federal court. And there is no period of time in which this prohibition expires, regardless of how far in the past the conviction occurred.  


The penalty for this federal offense includes up to 5 years in federal prison. 


Using or Possessing a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Offense or Other Violent Crime 


This federal firearm offense is perhaps the most serious in the statute. Possessing a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, including drug trafficking, means that the defendant was probably ready to use it. With drug traffickers, the penalty for possessing or using a firearm during the crime may have had its origin in Congress’s belief that the offenders were prepared to shoot or kill law enforcement officers. 


The penalties for possessing or using a firearm during a violent offense include: 


  • Minimum mandatory 5-year prison sentence for merely possessing a gun during the crime 
  • Minimum mandatory 7-year prison sentence for brandishing a gun during the crime 
  • Minimum mandatory 10-year prison sentence for firing a gun during the crime 
  • Minimum mandatory 10-year prison sentence if the gun is a sawed-off or short-barreled rifle or shotgun 
  • Minimum mandatory 30-year prison sentence if the gun possessed or used is a machine gun or a destructive device. 
  • Minimum mandatory 25-year prison sentence for 2nd offense of carrying a firearm during a violent crime 
  • Minimum mandatory life sentence for 2nd offense of carrying a machine gun or destructive device during the violent crime. 


Illegally Selling a Firearm without a License or Sale of Illegal Firearms 


Firearms crimes in federal court are not limited only to people who allegedly used the guns or carried them during violent crimes or after felony convictions. Many of the defendants indicted on federal firearms charges are accused of sales crimes. 


First, a federal license is required to legally sell a gun in the United States. If a gun is sold by a seller without a license and that firearm crosses state lines, the seller can be charged with a federal crime.  


The offense carries a penalty of up to 5 years in federal prison.  


But even with a valid license to sell firearms, certain guns are illegal, and a licensed dealer can be prosecuted in federal court if they sell a gun in this category. Selling a machine gun is a good example. 


It’s also a federal crime for a licensed firearms dealer to sell a gun or ammunition to a convicted felon or a person known to be acting as a straw man for an ineligible buyer.  


Learn More > Federal Gun Laws: What Places are Off Limits for Guns? 


Defending Federal Firearms Charges  


Defending federal gun charges requires the defense lawyer’s close attention and the application of their long-practiced legal skills. Experienced federal gun defense lawyers often begin by examining the manner in which the firearms were discovered by law enforcement. 


Since every person is constitutionally protected from unreasonable search and seizure of their person, possession, or home, we determine if the authorities possess a valid search warrant supported by probable cause as set out in a properly sworn affidavit and approved by an authorized federal magistrate. 


Another substantial analysis is needed to determine if the search exceeded the limits of the warrant.  


The legal defense of a federal defendant facing prosecution for violation of gun laws is in-depth, complex, and must be handled with exceptional skill.  


Call our attorneys at Stechschulte Nell for federal gun charge defense. We are available 24/7 to take your call; 813-280-1244.  

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