Understanding Gun Law: How to Keep from Being Charged in the State of Maryland
A basic American right explicitly set forth in the second amendment is the right to bear arms. It is important to understand that not only is that right not absolute, it often has many conditions, the violation of any of which may result in an otherwise lawful gun owner going to jail. The following are the most commonly charged issues relative to firearms and gun law:
Gun Law Violation: Transporting Handguns
Under MD Criminal Law 4-203 it is illegal to knowingly wear, carry or transport a handgun unless it is done according to specific rules and regulations. In order to transport a legally possessed handgun in Maryland, the gun must be unloaded and in a case or holster. Moreover, there is a lengthy list of places and circumstances a person may transport a gun to or from (i.e. a place of legal sale, the shooting range, between bona fide residences, etc.) but even then (unless you have a proper carry permit) gun law states that the gun must be unloaded and in a case or holster.
Even if you forgot the handgun was in your vehicle you may still be in violation as 4-203 declares that there is a presumption that you knew the gun was there; in other words, the “I forgot that the gun was in the car” is a difficult defense to improper handgun transport in Maryland.
If you are legally able to carry and transport a gun, please make sure you are doing so properly. You would be amazed at the number of gun law cases that could be prevented if folks were more educated on the topic.
Gun Law Violation: Possession of Regulated Firearms
In the State of Maryland, a “regulated firearm” is any handgun and/or any assault weapon. The State has published a list of weapons that qualify as assault-type weapons in MD Code, Public Safety Article 5-101(r). While committing a crime with any of these weapons often carries a minimum mandatory sentence of five (5) years (usually non-parolable) it is typically unknown that according to Maryland gun law, simply possessing such a weapon in certain circumstances, without committing any crime, can result in a long prison sentence.
While most people are not surprised to know that individuals who have previously been convicted of drug felonies cannot legally possess regulated firearms, most are shocked to learn that if you have a previous conviction for misdemeanor 2nd-degree assault in a domestic case, or even probation before judgment, you are disqualified from ever possessing a regulated firearm in Maryland. In fact, a conviction for any felony or even a misdemeanor which carries a penalty of two (2) years or more, makes an individual a “disqualified person” MD Code, 5-133(g).
Because this stipulation is less known, many end up being charged, and doing jail time just for having a gun they are not legally allowed to be in procession of. Gun law can be very tricky to understand.
If you are deemed a drug addict or “habitual drunkard” you will also be a disqualified person and subject to penalties should you be in possession of a firearm. And though most people don’t realize it, if you have gone voluntarily to drug or alcohol treatment, if that treatment lasted for more than thirty (30) days, you fall under the heading of “disqualified person”, though in these circumstances it may be possible to have your right to own a regulated firearm reinstated.
Gun Law Violation: Rifles and Shotguns
Even the possession of rifles and shotguns is illegal when a person has been previously convicted of a “disqualifying crime” as defined in MD Code, Public Safety Article 5-101(g). This means that if you were convicted of any crime that carries a maximum penalty of more than two (2) years (this includes all felonies and crimes of violence) you are disqualified from even possessing hunting guns or any gun for self-defense.
With gun laws being so difficult to navigate, many carrying jail time for violation, it is important that you do the research necessary to determine if you are eligible to bear arms, prior to obtaining a weapon.
Federal Law is even more restrictive and provides that should a person be convicted of any crime that carries a maximum penalty of more than one (1) year, that person is in violation of federal law and may be prosecuted for improper possession of a firearm, even a shotgun or rifle, in Federal District Court. 18 USCA 922(g).
As criminal defense attorneys, we find it is important to educate people about things like gun law and the possible penalties violation carries. Being armed (no pun intended) with this information will make the world of difference when it comes to keeping you protected and out of jail.
If you are dealing with any of the gun law violations outlined above, the team at Craig Kadish & Associates can help. Schedule a free consultation with one of our highly experienced attorneys today.