New York Federal Stolen Firearms Lawyer
Under federal law, it is not only illegal to steal, or deal in stolen firearms or ammunition, but also to knowingly ship or possess these items as well. A conviction for any of this conduct may result in a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment and the imposition of a substantial fine. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(i)-(j); 924(a), (l)-(m). Since federal authorities have gone to great lengths to stamp out gun crime in the United States, convictions for these offenses are often prosecuted especially harshly.
Given the severity of these potential consequences, you should prioritize retaining a New York federal stolen firearms lawyer if you are facing any criminal allegations under these sections of federal law. A qualified federal gun defense attorney could help understand your options for defending yourself and work tirelessly to protect your rights and future best interests.
Is Stealing a Firearm Always a Federal Offense?
As is the case with many criminal offenses, a charge for stealing a firearm—or for possessing or selling a stolen weapon—is generally only prosecuted under federal law if some element of the crime involved or occurred in more than one state. If a person allegedly steals a firearm or receives a stolen gun and no element of that supposed offense occurred outside of New York, they would generally be prosecuted under state law instead.
Regardless of its approximate value, theft of a firearm is always considered felony grand larceny under New York state law. However, federal offenses tend to be prosecuted much more severely, can result in significantly harsher consequences upon conviction, and are often accompanied by additional charges for related offenses. An experienced federal defense attorney in New York could assess a stolen firearms case and determine at which level it may be prosecuted.
Stealing Firearms Transported Across State Borders
First, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(l), any person who steals any firearm which has traveled or moved in interstate or foreign commerce at any point shall be imprisoned by up to ten years. See, e.g., United States v. Richardson, No. 97 CR 5129, 2007 WL 4239508, at *4 (E.D. Ca. November 30, 2007). Similarly, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(m), any person who steals any firearm from any licensed dealer, manufacturer or collector may also be imprisoned by up to ten years. See, e.g., United States v. Requejo, 364 F. App’x 517, 520 (10th Cir. 2010).
Transporting Stolen Firearms Across State Borders
Second, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(i), it is unlawful for any person to ship or transport in foreign or interstate commerce any firearm or ammunition while knowing or having reason to know that such firearm or ammunition has been stolen. A conviction for violating § 922(i) also results in a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment (see 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2)), however, in order to secure a conviction for this crime, the government must satisfy the “scienter requirement,” i.e., they must establish the defendant’s knowledge “that the firearm [or ammunition] … was stolen.” United States v. Thomas, 628 F.3d 64, 68 (2d Cir. 2010).
Possessing Stolen Firearms or Ammunition
Third, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(j), it is unlawful for any person to receive, possess, conceal, sell or dispose of any firearm or ammunition, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such firearm or ammunition was stolen. Notably, this statute, as with violations of § 924(l) and (m) – requires that the firearm or ammunition at issue was shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce at some point, either before or after the firearm was stolen – this is the jurisdictional hook that permits these charges to be filed in federal court. 18 U.S.C. § 922(j). A conviction for violating § 922(j) results in a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment, see 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2), however, similar to § 922(i), the government must prove that the defendant “knew or had reason to know that the [firearm or ammunition] … was stolen,” in order to secure a conviction. United States v. Howard, 214 F.3d 361, 363 (2d Cir. 2000).
What are Possible Defense for Federal Stolen Firearms Charges?
The intent of the defendant can play a somewhat complicated role in federal cases involving stolen firearms. While it does not matter what a defendant did or did not intend to do with a stolen firearm, it does matter whether they knew the gun in question was previously stolen. As noted above, if a defendant purchased a stolen firearm through what they believed in earnest to be a legitimate transaction, they cannot be convicted of knowingly buying or transporting stolen goods.
However, proving a lack of foreknowledge that a gun was stolen can be difficult without assistance from qualified legal counsel. Based on an individual defendant’s circumstances, a qualified lawyer in New York could help construct a defense strategy uniquely suited to their particular federal stolen firearms case.
Work with a Qualified New York Federal Stolen Firearms Attorney
If you have been accused of possessing a gun or stealing a weapon, you should contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman. Our New York federal stolen firearms lawyers could defend you in any prosecution and work hard to explore every option. To get started on your case, call today.