An illegal weapon or firearm charge may carry serious consequences. If convicted, you may face jail time, fines and other penalties. In addition to penalties associated with a conviction, an illegal weapon or firearm charge can also negatively impact your life moving forward. If a conviction is on your record, it may make it more difficult for you to find employment or housing.
However, if you have been arrested for an illegal weapon or firearm offense in Las Vegas, Nevada, it is important to seek the services of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A criminal lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and evaluate your legal options.
What Are Illegal Weapons?
Federal law prohibits the possession of certain types of firearms including short-barreled rifles, machine guns, and short-barreled shotguns. The National Firearms Act (NFA) regulates the manufacture, possession, and transfer of certain types of firearms. The NFA was passed in 1934 in an effort to combat organized crime and the use of illegal weapons by gangsters during Prohibition. The NFA, in its current form, imposes regulations on the manufacture, transfer, and possession of dangerous weapons.
Under federal law, it is illegal to knowingly transport or receive any firearm that has not been registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). This includes transporting or receiving any unregistered firearm that is illegally manufactured or sold by a licensed dealer who violates a state law that requires him or her to register all firearms he sells with ATF. Dangerous weapons as defined by NFA include:
- Short-barreled shotguns
- Short-barreled rifles
- Modified rifles/shotguns
- Machine guns
- Destructive devices – grenades, rockets
- Any other concealable weapon but potentially explosive when discharging shots
In 1968, the congress passed the Gun Control Act (GCA) to restrict firearms from criminal parties. To date, the GCA has evolved to a complex statutory regime that regulates and amends the firearms laws, extending to categories that fall outside the scope of NFA.
Overview of Illegal Weapon Offenses in Nevada
In Nevada, the law restricts ownership weapons and accessories to certain people (NRS 202.362). Normally, you can purchase and own a firearm in Las Vegas without registration or a special permit. Unfortunately, these lax laws seem to have costed the country unrecoverable loss.
The murder of 59 people and the injury of over 500 others at a country music concert on October 1, 2017 shocked the nation. The shooter, Stephen Paddock, had no criminal history and was not known to have any mental health issues. However, he had a large collection of weapons and ammunition in his room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino where he fired upon thousands of concert-goers from a window on the 32nd floor of the hotel. The attack has brought up many questions about gun control laws in Nevada as well as around the country.
Nevada is one of the states that do not require any permit to own a firearm. This means that anyone who wishes to own a weapon can do so without having to undergo any training. However, the seller is required by law to do background check before issuing someone with a firearm.
Also, the state does require those who wish to carry a concealed firearm openly in public to obtain a valid CCW permit. Obtaining a CCW is relatively easy as Nevada is a “shall issue” state. This means that if you’re eligible for a CCW permit, the issuing authority is legally compelled to issue the permit to you.
The Gun Control Act (GCA) regulates interstate commerce in firearms by generally prohibiting interstate sales except through licensed dealers. The GCA also prohibits anyone from selling a firearm to someone they know or have reasonable cause to believe is prohibited from possessing one under state or federal law.
In Nevada, unlawful possession of a weapon by an individual means a person who falls into a specific restricted category are not legally allowed to purchase, own or carry firearms in public. These restricted categories include:
- Anyone under the age of 18
- Convicted felons
- Drug addicts
- Mentally ill individuals
- Anyone unlawfully residing in the United States
Possible Charges for Illegal Firearms in Las Vegas
In Nevada, parents and other adults can be liable if a minor possesses a weapon. Such as, if a parent helps a minor possess a gun without proper supervision. The charges for minors regarding unlawful possession include up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 for first time offenders (NRS 202.310). However, additional crimes become category B felony which are punishable with up to 6 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
The same charge stands for drug addicts who are found in possession of firearms. For fugitives, mentally ill people and those that are not lawful residents of the United States can be convicted of category D felony. This category carries up to four years imprisonment in a Nevada prison and fines not exceeding $5,000.
If you were caught with an illegal weapon in Las Vegas, you will likely be charged with a felony charge. However, there are defenses that can be used to fight the charge.
Possible Defenses to Illegal Weapon Charges
The legal defense for illegal weapon charges can be a complex and nuanced issue. However, there are many possible defenses to illegal weapon charges, including:
#1. Illegal Search
Police may have searched you without a warrant, consent or probable cause. The Fourth Amendment protects against searches and seizures of property that are not justified by law. If police illegally searched you or your car and found the gun, then evidence obtained from that search could be suppressed in court, which could result in dismissal of the charges against you.
#2. Mistaken Identity
Police might have mistaken someone else for you at the time of arrest. If so, they could have made an arrest based on misinformation or faulty eyewitness testimony. You may be able to use this as a defense – so long as it can be proven that another person was actually in unlawful possession of the gun when arrested by police officers.
#3. Fabricated Evidence
There may be evidence that was fabricated to make it appear as though you were guilty of illegal possession of firearms or other weapons. An attorney will know how to handle this type of situation and help defend your rights as an honest citizen in Las Vegas.
#4. Prosecutorial Misconduct
Police might have identified another person as being involved with illegal weapon possession but instead mistakenly arrested you instead. In this scenario, you could use this as a defense to show that police did not follow proper procedures during their investigation and therefore allow them to dismiss illegal weapon possession charges against you.
#5. Faulty Forensic Testing Methods
When police officers collect evidence, they may not have followed proper methods, such as making mistakes when collecting or storing it. Such mistakes may lead to false positives, causing you to be wrongly accused and convicted.
Bias may be based on race, socioeconomic standing, gender, etc. Many people believe that law enforcement officers are biased against certain groups of people, including minorities and those from lower socioeconomic stratification. This can lead to an unfair arrest or conviction for illegal weapon possession.
#7. Duress Defense
You may have been threatened into carrying a gun for someone else (such as a gang member). This is known as being “duressed” into carrying a weapon illegally and could provide another way to avoid conviction for such charges. When charged with illegally possessing a firearm, it is important to get legal help immediately. A Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your rights, build your case to avoid the worst consequences of the charges.
How a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you are facing charges for unlawful possession of a firearm, the best way to protect your rights is to hire an attorney to help navigate the legal system in Nevada for you. The state has the burden of proof, but you have right to defend yourself. An attorney will protect your rights throughout the process.
A Las Vegas firearm charge defense lawyer will try to identify any flaws or weaknesses in the state’s case against you and help prepare your defense strategy. He or she will cross-examine witnesses at trial to expose inconsistencies or inaccuracies in their statements.
The attorney will also use his or her knowledge of the law to raise questions about whether certain pieces of evidence should be admitted into court at all. And most importantly, our lawyers will present evidence in order to persuade a jury that there are mitigating circumstances surrounding your arrest that should result in a reduction or dismissal of charges altogether.
Let a Firearm Defense Attorney Stand Up for Your Rights
If you have been charged with a firearm crime in Las Vegas, our criminal defense attorneys at the De Castroverde Law Group are ready to help you. We will fight tirelessly to protect your rights. Contact us today to stand up for your rights and fight for a positive outcome in your case.