What Makes a Gun Charge Federal?

Although California has several laws regarding gun crimes in the state, gun charges become a federal offense when weapons or ammunition are shipped, transported, or received across state lines or for foreign commerce by unlicensed individuals, according to 18 U.S. Code § 922.

Who’s Prohibited from Possessing Firearms?

Not only does federal law prohibit weapons from being shipped, transported, or received for interstate or foreign commerce, but it also prohibits specific individuals from owning firearms, including:

  • Fugitives
  • Those convicted of crimes punishable by one or more years of imprisonment
  • Unlawful users or those addicted to controlled substances
  • Those deemed mentally defective or committed to an institution
  • Illegal immigrants
  • Dishonorably discharged veterans
  • Those who have renounced U.S. citizenship
  • Those subject to a court order
  • Those convicted of a misdemeanor for domestic violence

Transporting Certain Firearms & Ammunition

While the law broadly prohibits unlicensed individuals from transporting weapons across state and federal borders, it also lays out specific restrictions on types of firearms and ammunition.

18 U.S. Code § 922(a)(4) makes transporting destructive devices like grenades, mines, or bombs illegal. It also prohibits transporting machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, or short-barreled rifles.

Additionally, it’s also illegal to manufacture or import armor piercing rounds except if a U.S. department or agency uses them.

Laws for Selling to Underaged Individuals

 You could also face criminal charges for selling or delivering firearms to someone under 18 or selling guns other than a shotgun or rifle to someone under 21.

Weapons with Missing Serial Numbers

All guns in the U.S. must have a corresponding serial number to identify and track them. Federal law makes it illegal to knowingly transport or receive firearms where the serial number is removed or tampered with.

Possessing Weapons in Restricted Areas

Most local laws won’t allow you to possess a gun on private property like school zones. When someone possesses a gun on school grounds for interstate or foreign commerce, they’ll be charged with a federal crime.

What Could You Face for a Federal Gun Charge?

The punishments for a federal gun crime conviction are exhaustive, and your penalties depend on your specific situation. In short, the penalties range from 1 year to life in prison with accompanying fines, and the presence of aggravating factors could greatly influence your case’s outcome.

Penalties for Prohibited Individuals

You can face fines and up to 15 years in prison if you’re one of the prohibited individuals listed above and you’re charged with shipping or transporting firearms or ammunition across state lines or for foreign commerce.

Federal Gun Crimes & Drug Trafficking

In addition to stand-alone federal gun crimes, you could face five years in prison if you used or carried a firearm during any violent crime or drug trafficking offense.

Brandishing a weapon—revealing it to another person to threaten them—during a drug trafficking offense or violent crime results in a seven-year sentence. If the gun is discharged, you’ll face ten years in prison.

The Type of Weapon Could Increase Your Sentence

Your penalties only worsen depending on the type of gun in your possession. Short-barreled shotguns, short-barreled rifles, and semi-automatic assault rifles all warrant a minimum of ten years in prison.

Furthermore, machine guns, destructive devices, or guns with silencers result in a minimum 30-year prison sentence if convicted.

Penalties for Repeat Offenders

If you have prior convictions, you could face a minimum of 25 years in prison. The nature of your previous offense could also impact the outcome of your case. A subsequent offense for using a machine gun, destructive device, or silencer results in serving the rest of your life behind bars.

Criminal Penalties for Juveniles

Juveniles could face jail time or probation, depending on the circumstances of their case. If they face time in jail, it would be for no more than one year with accompanying fines. If the court issues probation, the juvenile doesn’t have to go to jail unless they violate the terms.

Your Options When Charged with a Federal Gun Crime

Although the court might threaten significant jail time and fines, you still have options to consider. Depending on your situation, your attorney could argue the following:

  • Law enforcement had no probable cause to initiate a traffic stop to arrest you if you were driving
  • Police searched your property illegally
  • You did not knowingly possess a firearm
  • You had a license to import, manufacture, or deal with firearms

Regardless of your situation, your Oakland weapon charge attorney will do everything possible to dismiss your charges. They may negotiate a plea deal to reduce your penalties.