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Federal Possession and Sale of Firearms with Altered Serial Numbers in New York

Pursuant to the Gun Control Act of 1968, licensed manufacturers and importers of firearms must ensure that each firearm imported into or manufactured in the United States is identifiable by a serial number and other information on the firearm itself. See 18 U.S.C. § 923(i). Specifically, the manufacturer or importer must engrave, cast, or stamp an individualized serial number onto the frame, receiver, or barrel of the firearm, as well as the model, caliber, place of origin and manufacturer’s name. See 27 CFR § 478.92(a)(1); 479.102(a).

Removing the serial number from a firearm, selling, or merely possessing a firearm with a removed serial number is a serious federal offense, punishable by a lengthy period of incarceration. Additionally, if an individual is convicted of another crime involving the unlawful receipt, transfer, or possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, the defendant’s sentencing guidelines may be enhanced by over ten years under certain circumstances. See U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b). If you are facing federal charges for the possession and/or sale of firearms with altered serial numbers in New York, you should consider retaining a skilled federal gun crime defense lawyer as soon as possible.

When Do Federal Courts Have Jurisdiction?

Under New York state law, the possession of any firearm that has its serial number defaced is considered a class D felony offense. Furthermore, state law establishes a rebuttable presumption that anyone found in possession of a defaced firearm is also the party who defaced it, which could lead to additional criminal consequences.

However, this law would only apply if the firearm in question was manufactured in New York State, had its serial number altered within the state, and then never New York at any time between its production and the defendant’s arrest for possessing it. If someone in New York is accused of possessing or selling a firearm with an altered serial number that either came from another state or country or is being sold to a buyer in another state or country, federal authorities would have jurisdiction.

Buying or Selling a Gun Without a Serial Number

Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(k), it is unlawful for any person to knowingly transport, ship or receive in interstate or foreign commerce any firearm which has had the importer’s or manufacturer’s serial number altered or removed. This statute also proscribes the possession of a firearm with an altered or removed serial number if such weapon has been transported in interstate or foreign commerce at any time since its production, e.g., it was made in one state and moved to another. See United States v. Bastian, 112 F.Supp.2d 378, 382 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (“Section 922(k) …. makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly possess a firearm which has had its serial number defaced”). A conviction for any violation of §922(k) may result in a large fine and a maximum term of imprisonment of five years.

Removing a Firearm’s Serial Number

According to 26 U.S.C. § 5861, it is unlawful for any person to remove or alter the serial number or other identifying information of a firearm; receive or possess a firearm having the serial number or other identifying information changed or to receive or possess a firearm which is not identified by a serial number. See 26 U.S.C. § 5861(g)-(i). A conviction for any of this misconduct may result in a large fine and a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years.

It can be difficult to contest this kind of allegation in court, since even if a defendant can successfully convince a jury that they did not personally alter the serial number on the weapon in their possession, it would still be a crime for them to possess that weapon in the first place. However, a skilled attorney could work to mitigate the severity of the sanctions that defendant might face upon conviction, which can often be an effective strategy if the defendant has no prior criminal record.

What are the Penalties for Committing a Crime with a Weapon that Has an Altered Serial Number?

Finally, if a defendant is convicted of another crime involving the unlawful receipt, possession, or transportation of a firearm (see 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)), or another prohibited transaction involving firearms (e.g. §§ 922(g), 924(a)), and any of the firearms at issue had an altered or obliterated serial number, the defendant may be subject to a four level sentencing enhancement. See U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b). At the upper end of the Sentencing Guidelines, this enhancement may equate to more than an additional ten years imprisonment, and notably, the court need not find that the defendant knew that the firearm’s serial number had been obliterated for this enhancement to apply. See United States v. Williams, 49 F.3d 92, 93 (2d Cir. 1995).

Talk to a New York Attorney About Federal Possession and Sale of Firearms with Altered Serial Numbers

Hiring a top New York criminal defense attorney to defend you in any prosecution for a federal firearms offense is crucial as we  could help review all viable defenses. Therefore, if you have been accused of federal possession and sale of firearms with altered serial numbers in New York. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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