While the right to keep and bear arms is a constitutionally protected
liberty, all states limit a person's ability to carry or possess
certain weapons in certain situations. Each state has its own laws that
establish the types of weapons that are illegal to own or possess.
Anyone who possesses a weapon that is specifically prohibited by state
or federal law can be charged with possession of a prohibited weapon.
- Weapons. State
laws typically list a variety of firearms or other types of weapons
that are prohibited. Though these laws differ, the types of prohibited
weapons tend to be very similar. State laws typically prohibit citizens
from possessing explosives, gas guns, switchblade knives, exploding
projectiles, and brass knuckles, as well as any weapon prohibited under
federal law such as short-barreled shotguns or firearms with silencers.
Whenever you carry a weapon on you, have one in your home, or carry one
in your vehicle, this is usually considered possessing a weapon. It
isn't necessary for you to actually have it in your hand or in your
pocket, or otherwise carry it with you. To show possession, a prosecutor
must show that you had control or domain over the prohibited weapon.
While all states prohibit specific types of weapons, the laws that
prohibit these weapons often include exceptions that allow for people to
carry them in certain situations. For example, displaying a prohibited
weapon in a museum or public exhibition is typically allowed, as is the
proper use of explosives in an industrial or commercial setting.
Possessing versus Carrying a Concealed Weapon
crime of possessing is similar to the crime of carrying a concealed
weapon, though there are important differences. When the state prohibits
a certain weapon, it doesn't matter if you own it, carry it in the
open, or have it hidden somewhere on your body. It's enough that you
have the weapon or have control over it to be convicted of possessing a
prohibited weapon. But if you carry a prohibited weapon in a concealed
manner, you may also be charged with carrying a concealed weapon.
For more information on carrying a concealed weapon, see Carrying a Concealed Weapon.
a prohibited weapon is often charged as a misdemeanor, though in some
situations it can count as a felony offense. Misdemeanors are crimes for
which the punishment is up to one year in jail, while a felony can lead
to incarceration in a prison for at least a year or more. In many
jurisdictions, the dividing line between a misdemeanor and felony charge
depends on whether the person convicted of the crime has been
previously convicted of the same crime, or convicted of any other
Though the type of sentence associated with the conviction
for possessing a prohibited weapon can vary widely from case to case,
they typically involve one or more of the following penalties:
- Fines. A
misdemeanor conviction for possessing a prohibited weapon often brings
with it a fine as its primary penalty. The amount of the fine can vary
widely, though felony fines are much higher than misdemeanor fines. A
misdemeanor conviction might bring with it a fine of up to $1,000, while
felony convictions can have fines of $10,000 or more.
- Incarceration. Being
convicted of a misdemeanor charge of possession of a prohibited weapon
typically does not involve significant, if any, jail time, though each
case differs. The maximum jail time for a misdemeanor conviction is
usually somewhere between six months and one year. For felony
convictions, defendants can face a significantly longer time in prison.
Felony convictions are punished by at least one year in jail, and
depending on the state and the defendant's criminal history, a sentence
of 10 years or more is a possibility.
- Probation. A
court may also sentence someone convicted of possessing a prohibited
weapon to a term of probation. Anyone sentenced to probation term must
spend a specific number of months, usually at least six and sometimes as
many as 24 or even 36, complying with specific terms as ordered by the
court. These terms, such as maintaining steady employment and not
committing further crimes, must be followed closely or you risk going
back to court and being forced to serve a jail or prison sentence
instead of the probation sentence.
Talk to an Attorney
being charged with possessing a prohibited weapon may seem like a minor
offense, it is always in your best interest to speak to an experienced
criminal defense attorney whenever you face a criminal charge. Even if
you believe you are not guilty of the crime and do not believe you can
be convicted, it's important you speak to an attorney so you can receive
competent legal advice about the options you have and what steps you
have to take. Only a criminal defense attorney will know how to properly
analyze your case and provide legal advice based on the law and the
facts in your particular circumstances.