Illegal Use of a Firearm

Weapons crimes are taken very seriously in New York State. If you have an unlicensed and loaded firearm outside of your residence or place of business, you could be incarcerated for a minimum of three and a half years. In the majority of New York weapons charges, a conviction will lead to a felony, and a felony offense on one’s criminal record has severe consequences.

Intentionally firing a weapon in a public place and / or area where it could or does endanger another person, firing a gun within a quarter mile of an occupied school building, and aiming a gun at another person without malice are charged as Class A misdemeanors, leading to up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine. Intentionally shooting at an aircraft, train, bus, or other vehicle are Class D felonies (punishable by up to 5 years in prison) if, during their commission, others were put into danger. Otherwise they are Class E felonies that can result in 2-5 years in prison. When someone is in possession of a loaded firearm and / or displays what appears to be a loaded firearm and has a previous class C violent felony offense, they are guilty of criminal use of a firearm in the 2nd degree, which can result in up to 15 years in prison. Criminal use of a firearm in the 1st degree is a Class B felony punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 25 years. A person commits this offense when they possess or appear to possess a loaded firearm and have a previous Class B violent felony offense.

If you have been charged with criminal use of a firearm in any degree contact a criminal defense attorney right away, especially if the charge is being combined with others, which is usually the case. Weapons charges entail severe penalties and expert legal advice is mandatory.

Under federal law, any person who uses a firearm in the commission of a violent crime or drug trafficking shall have 5 to 10 years added to their sentence, depending on the circumstances. If the person had previous federal convictions for illegal firearm use, their sentence can be anywhere between an added 10 years to life. The death penalty could apply if murder results from the crime.

Defenses to criminal charges for use of a firearm include failure to prove that the person constructively or actually possessed the firearm; an illegal stop, detention or seizure, and the failure of the item seized to meet New York’s definition of a firearm.

On April 20, 2014, a former NYPD officer was arrested for shooting his wife, Jessica Mera, in front of their children in Ozone Park, Queens. Kevin Canty, 43, who retired from the force last year on disability, shot Mera, 40, in the stomach, upper chest, breast, arm and armpit. He was charged with second-degree murder and criminal use of a firearm.

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