Felon with a Firearm

18 U.S. Code § 922(g) - Felon in Possession of a Firearm

A typical federal charge is the possession of firearms by felons, which includes various situations that involve firearm possession. Simply put, suppose you were previously convicted of a felony crime. In that case, you could be charged under federal law for possessing a firearm.

Notably, “possession” of a firearm is not the same as ownership. For example, possession can be constructive, which means they possess firearms in their home, car, places of employment, locker, etc., without being physically present at the time of the firearm discovery. The weapon does not have to be registered in your name as long as you can access it.

18 U.S. Code § 922(g) - Felon in Possession of a Firearm
It's a crime under 18 U.S. Code 922(g) for a convicted felon to have possession of a firearm.

Suppose law enforcement can prove you had access to and control of a firearm. In that case, you could be found to have it. Also, possession does not have to be exclusive, meaning several people can possess the same firearm. It's common for all vehicle passengers to be charged with possessing a single gun.

18 U.S.C. 922(g) says, “It shall be unlawful for any person— who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;

(2) who is a fugitive from justice; (3) who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance, as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802); 

(9) who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce….”

This law is called the "felon with a firearm" or "felon in possession of a firearm" law. Let's review this federal law further below.

Who Can't Possess a Firearm Under Federal Law?

Notably, 18 U.S.C. 922(g) mainly focuses on the illegal possession of firearms by convicted felons but also prohibits other people.

Also, the federal restriction only applies to possessing or transporting a firearm that affects "interstate or foreign commerce," meaning crossing state or international borders.

Suppose a convicted felon only has gun possession within a state. In that case, they could face criminal charges under local state laws in a state court, not a federal court. According to 18 U.S.C. 9229g), the following individuals are prohibited from possessing a firearm:

  • Someone convicted in any state or federal court of a crime that carries a sentence of more than one year, which is the definition of a felony offense but could also apply if convicted of certain misdemeanors;
  • Someone who is a fugitive from justice fleeing prosecution or testimony;
  • Drug addicts, described as those addicted to a controlled substance;
  • Someone with a mental illness or committed to a mental institution;
  • Aliens, including undocumented and non-permanent resident aliens illegally in the country, but does not include aliens with a green card;
  • Someone who was dishonorably discharged from the military.
  • Someone under a domestic violence restraining order or was convicted of a domestic violence crime.

Notably, you do not have to be sentenced to more than a year in jail to be considered ineligible to possess a firearm, but rather only convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year.  

For example, suppose you're convicted of a crime with a sentence of two years, but the sentence was “suspended,” or you were placed on probation. In that case, you are still considered a convicted felon under federal law.

What Are the Related Federal Laws?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 44 Firearms has several federal laws related to 18 U.S. Code 922 Unlawful acts, including the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 921 - Definitions;
  • 18 U.S.C. 923 - Licensing;
  • 18 U.S.C. 924 - Penalties;
  • 18 U.S.C. 925 - Exceptions and relief from disabilities;
  • 18 U.S.C. 925A - Erroneous denial of a firearm;
  • 18 U.S.C. 925B - Report of background check denials;
  • 18 U.S.C. 925C - Annual report to the U.S. Congress;
  • 18 U.S.C. 925D - Special assistant attorneys
  • 18 U.S.C. 926 - Rules and regulations;
  • 18 U.S.C. 926A - Interstate transportation of firearms;
  • 18 U.S.C. 926B - Carrying concealed firearms by law enforcement;
  • 18 U.S.C. 926C - Carrying concealed firearms by retired officers;
  • 18 U.S.C. 927 - Effect on State law;
  • 18 U.S.C. 928 - Separability;
  • 18 U.S.C. 929 - Using restricted ammunition;
  • 18 U.S.C. 930 - Possessing firearms in federal facilities;
  • 18 U.S.C. 931 - Prohibition on purchase of body armor;
  • 18 U.S.C. 932 - Straw purchasing firearms;
  • 18 U.S.C. 933 - Trafficking in firearms;
  • 18 U.S.C. 934 - Forfeiture and fines.

What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S. Code 922(g)?

Suppose you are convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g).  In that case, the penalties will vary based on the case details, such as the following:

  • The basic penalty is up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release;
  • Under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) of 1984 (18 U.S.C. 924(e)), if you have three or more convictions for some violent felonies and drug offenses, you are eligible for a sentencing enhancement that includes a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison with no parole.

What Are the Legal Defenses?

If you are accused of violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g), our experienced federal criminal defense lawyers can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.

Defenses for Felon in Possession of a Firearm
Contact our federal defense attorneys for advice.

Maybe we argue that you were not ineligible to own or possess a firearm.  For example, suppose you were not convicted of a qualifying crime or had a domestic violence restraining order removed.

You may not fall under one of the disqualified groups discussed above. In that case, you should be able to avoid a conviction or get the charges dropped.

Maybe we can argue that the firearm did not cross state borders or international lines, which could remove this crime from federal jurisdiction but potentially to a state court with lesser penalties.

Maybe we could argue that the firearm was not under your control, such as showing that you did not have reasonable access to it. Maybe we could negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a favorable plea deal when guilt is not in doubt.

Contact our law firm for a free case consultation by phone or through the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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