By: Passalacqua & Associates

Felony Firearm Possession: Penalties and Defenses in New York

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When is the Possession of a Firearm a Felony in New York?

In the State of New York, a conviction for a gun crime could send you to jail or prison. If you’re charged with the illegal possession of a firearm in this state, you must be advised and represented by a Utica and Syracuse firearms attorney, and you must contact that attorney immediately.

Police agencies in New York seized more than 10,000 illegally-owned firearms in 2022. Some firearms are banned entirely. In most cases, for example, it is illegal in New York to own or possess a short-barreled shotgun, a short-barreled rifle, or a machine gun.

Knowing the law is essential for anyone who wants to possess, own, or carry a firearm in New York. Federal law bars you from possessing or owning a firearm after a felony conviction or a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction. And New York law bars anyone with ANY prior conviction from possessing any firearms.

How is a “Firearm” Defined by State Law?

New York law defines the following weapons as firearms:

  1.  assault weapons
  2.  pistols and revolvers
  3.  rifles with one or more barrels under sixteen inches
  4.  shotguns with one or more barrels under eighteen inches
  5.  weapons made from rifles or shotguns

What Should You Know About New York’s Gun Laws?

The law in New York does not require a license in order to own a manually-operated action rifle or a shotgun, but a permit is required to own or possess a handgun.

Firearms in this state must comply with the New York SAFE Act. The SAFE Act makes it illegal to own the weapons it defines as assault weapons unless those weapons were owned and registered on or before April 15, 2014.

Before the SAFE Act, having a firearm in your home or an unloaded firearm outside of your home – if that firearm was not registered or licensed – was a misdemeanor. Now, it’s a felony, and the weapon does not even have to be loaded or used in a violent or threatening manner.

What Are New York’s Specific Firearms Possession Charges?

If there are no aggravating circumstances, the charge for illegally owning or possessing a firearm in New York is criminal possession of a firearm in the fourth degree, a Class E felony. A conviction may be penalized with a fine, probation, and/or a prison sentence.

Third-degree criminal possession of a firearm, a Class D felony, is the possession of three or more firearms without a license or the possession of a firearm outside of your residence or workplace if you have a felony or Class A misdemeanor conviction in the previous five years. A conviction carries a mandatory prison sentence of at least two years.

Second-degree criminal possession of a firearm is a Class C felony. This is the charge for possessing a loaded firearm outside of your home or workplace. A conviction carries a mandatory prison sentence of at least three-and-a-half years.

First-degree criminal possession of a firearm, a Class B felony, is the charge when someone knowingly and illegally possesses ten or more firearms. First-degree criminal possession of a firearm may be penalized upon conviction with a minimum mandatory term of five years in prison, the possibility of twenty-five years in prison, and a fine of up to $30,000.

When Should You Contact a Firearms Attorney?

If you’re charged with the unlawful possession of a firearm in or near the Syracuse area, you must contact a Syracuse firearms lawyer as quickly as possible. To convict you of the charge, the state must prove that you were linked or tied in some way to the weapon.

However, you could be mistakenly charged with the criminal possession of a firearm for a variety of reasons: a misidentification, a misunderstanding, or even because of a fabricated claim against you.

If you are convicted of the criminal possession of a firearm, you will probably be sentenced to prison. Like any other criminal charge, if you’re charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm, you have the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel.

How Will Your Attorney Defend You?

If you are arrested, and if the police ask to interrogate you, say something like “I prefer to exercise my right to remain silent until my lawyer can be present,” and say nothing more. Your Syracuse firearms attorney will work to uncover the truth and win the justice you need.

The standard defense to the criminal possession of a firearm charge is that you did not actually own or possess the weapon. In these cases, the state must prove an association between the defendant and the firearm, and if no tie or link can be demonstrated, the state’s case will fail.

Another possible defense strategy – for someone who is allowed to own legal firearms – is to prove that the firearm in question was not actually illegal. The law spells out – in rather extensive detail – which firearms are and are not legal in New York.

Where Can You Find the Legal Help You May Need?

If you’re charged with a firearms violation in or near Syracuse, the right Syracuse firearms lawyer can make the difference. The award-winning defense attorneys at Passalacqua & Associates have over three decades of criminal defense experience.

When you become our client at Passalacqua & Associates, your case becomes our priority. We investigate the charge against you, review the evidence, and act to have the charge against you dropped or the case dismissed.

If the evidence against you is overwhelming, and a conviction is inevitable, we negotiate on your behalf for reduced or alternative sentencing. If your case goes to trial, we cast doubt on the state’s evidence, and we explain to the jurors why they should find you not guilty.

If you’re charged with possessing a firearm illegally in the Utica or Syracuse area, or if this happens to you in the future, contact Passalacqua & Associates immediately by calling 315-277-3548 to schedule a free case evaluation with no obligation.