The United States Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms through the 2nd Amendment. In addition, the state has local firearm laws. Even so, owning a gun is a privilege, and individuals must comply with all local laws involving safe use.
Unfortunately, criminal charges involving the improper use of a gun are common. These can involve a failure to retain a concealed weapon permit properly, unsafely discharging a weapon, or even using a weapon to further a separate alleged crime. An Upper Marlboro gun lawyer is prepared to help when you are facing charges involving a firearm. A seasoned defense attorney could work to defend your rights as a gun owner and defeat a prosecutor’s charges in court.
Gun Possession Laws
State law specifically states a person carrying a handgun without a license or who is disqualified violates the law. According to Maryland Criminal Law § 4-203, a conviction under this statute brings a jail term of not less than 30 days and not more than three years. The court may also order the payment of a fine of between $250 and $2,500. If a person has a previous conviction under this law, the penalties will increase.
However, this does not mean a person may never legally possess a gun. While state law creates the presumption that a person carrying a handgun is doing so illegally, the law also says a person may apply for a permit with their local police department. An Upper Marlboro attorney could help show that a person’s possession of a gun or any other type of firearm complied with the necessary state rules.
Generally, one is charged with possession of a handgun when an officer pulls them over and finds a gun in the car or on the person. When multiple people are in the vehicle, each person in the car can be charged with possession of a handgun under the constructive possession theory.
Constructive possession is difficult for the State to prove. The State must prove the person had knowledge of the handgun and was in a position to exert control over the gun. It is always the State’s burden to prove each element of the crime. A common example is when police find a handgun in the center console, and four people are in the vehicle. The police can charge everyone in the car with possession because of constructive possession.
What Will Enhance a Gun Charge?
Several factors could enhance a handgun possession charge:
- Conviction of a disqualifying crime carries a maximum of 15 years in prison and a five (5) year minimum without parole
- An unregistered firearm can lead to up to 10 years in prison
- Using a handgun while distributing drugs results in up to 20 years in prison
Gun charges routinely involve constitutional arguments surrounding the stop and search of a vehicle or person. The question presented to the court is generally whether the stop and search was legal. If the court determines the stop or search was illegal, the recovered gun could be suppressed and kept out of evidence.
In most cases, police need a warrant to search a vehicle. The police cannot stop a vehicle and search the car without an exception to this warrant requirement. These are the most common exceptions:
- Consent to search
- Smell of Marijuana or other drugs
- Officer sees illegal contraband
Consent to Search
An individual does not have to give police permission to search their vehicle. Refusing to give police permission to search a vehicle does not give them a reason to search a car. In fact, you should never consent to a search of your vehicle. You never know what will be found. It is a person’s constitutional right to say no to a vehicle search. If a person gives police the right to search their vehicle, they can confiscate any illegal contraband.
Similar rules apply to the attempts of law enforcement to search a person’s home or body. In general, police officers must have probable cause that a person has evidence of criminal activity hidden in their homes or other private locations to perform a search. A gun lawyer in Upper Marlboro could help contest the legality of a search and challenge whether the issuance of a warrant was appropriate under the circumstances.
Reach Out to an Upper Marlboro Gun Attorney Immediately
Charges that allege the illegal use or possession of guns are serious matters under state law. Any conviction will create a criminal record and could jeopardize your ability to legally own firearms in the future. The most serious cases are felonies that could bring multiple-year prison sentences.
An Upper Marlboro gun lawyer has extensive experience handling gun charges. We work to ensure you understand the law and what the prosecutor needs to prove to obtain a conviction. Our attorney has worked on the felony guns and drugs unit in Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office and represented clients with gun charges as a defense attorney. Our experience on both sides of the aisle provides a unique insight into how police investigate and how prosecutors try these cases. Reach out now to learn more about how we could build a defense.