Legal Guide

What is the Criminal Possession of a Weapon?

The most basic definition of criminal possession of a weapon is the unlawful possession of a weapon. But you probably already had that idea. So, to better understand what it means, it may be best to start by defining the words weapon, possession, and criminal. 

A weapon is any object that can inflict harm or cause death, such as guns, explosives, knives, pepper sprays, or dangerous chemicals. In legal terms, possession refers to having an object on your person or in your control. 

Criminal refers to the nature of the possession. A person can be said to criminally possess a weapon if the circumstances of the weapon possession violate the law.

Weapon Possession Laws

What may be illegal possession in one state may not be illegal in another. Also, two individuals can carry similar weapons in the same locations, but one is in unlawful possession while the other is not. 

In most cases, convicted felons are prohibited from carrying a weapon, irrespective of location, meaning they can face charges for criminal possession for carrying an otherwise legal weapon while another person is not. 

Federal and state laws classify some weapons as illegal, meaning possessing such weapons will be illegal for ordinary citizens. These weapons include military-grade assault rifles, large-capacity ammunition magazines, ballistic knives, camouflaging gun containers, not easily recognizable guns, and other weapons itemized under state statutes.

Criminal Weapons Possession Crimes

Simple Possession

Simple possession of a weapon is a crime involving the possession of a weapon prohibited for private ownership. This includes having the weapon on your person and/or in your control. 

A simple possession charge may also apply to individuals found possessing an otherwise legal weapon if they are restricted from possessing one by law, such as a convicted felon or mentally incapacitated individual.

Carry of a Concealed Weapon

Carrying a concealed weapon is a crime that occurs when a weapon holder carries a weapon in a manner that is not visible to the public. Concealed carry can include weapons concealed on oneself, in the car, or in one's surroundings where it is easily reachable. 

Some states issue concealed carry licenses, making it legal for licensed individuals to conceal their weapons. Otherwise, doing so is a crime punishable by law.

Strict Liability vs. Specific Intent

Criminal possession of a weapon charge follows the strict liability or the specific intent standards. Strict liability often applies even when the offender never intended to use the weapon. For example, if a person is arrested for possessing a machine gun, they can be convicted irrespective of their intention because owning one is illegal. 

The specific intent standard applies to persons convicted for illegally possessing a weapon but intending to use it to commit another crime. For example, if a person is arrested for carrying a concealed weapon while en route to commit a robbery, they can be charged with illegal possession based on their intent.

Consequences for Criminal Possession of a Weapon

Penalties for criminal possession depend on several factors, such as state, type of weapon, and intent. Typically, convicted offenders can get probation, fines, and prison sentences of up to 10 years. 

Besides criminal penalties, a conviction leaves the offender with a criminal record that can result in job loss, difficulty finding employment, social stigma, and challenges finding housing. It is also important to note that your handling of the case will have a huge bearing on the outcomes, so ensure you have a gun lawyer representing you in your case.

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