While the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees us the right to keep and bear arms, each state has the right to regulate the use and ownership of weapons. Consequently, the state of Massachusetts has several laws that restrict the carrying and use of firearms. Given the dangers of a person improperly possessing or using a firearm, Massachusetts law enforcement and prosecutors take weapons crimes very seriously and will try to punish you to the fullest extent of the law. (Mass.gov)
Some of the most common weapons crimes in Massachusetts are described below.
Illegal Carrying of Weapons
According to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 10, it is illegal to knowingly possess a loaded or unloaded gun if:
- You are not in your own home or place of business
- You do not possess a firearm license
- You are in possession of an illegal weapon, such as a machine gun or sawed off shotgun
This state law also makes it a crime to illegally carry dangerous weapons, such as daggers, ballistic knives, stilettos, kung fu sticks or Klackers.
If you are found possessing an unlicensed weapon, carry a gun outside your home or place of business without a license, or are in possession of a dangerous weapon, you can receive up to 18 months in prison. If you possess a machine gun or sawed off shotgun, you could receive life in prison in Massachusetts. These punishments are among the toughest in the country, so it is important to hire Attorney Nathan, a highly accomplished Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, to be your legal advocate.
Possession of an Unlicensed Weapon at Home or Work
According to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 10(h)(1), it is illegal to own a firearm, rifle, or shotgun without a permit, even if you have it in your home or place of business. You can get up to two years in prison for violating this law. This is one of the most rigorous gun laws in the US, so if you are charged with possessing an unlicensed weapon in your home, talk to Attorney Nathan immediately.
Carrying a Shotgun or Rifle in Public
It is illegal to carry a shotgun or rifle in a public way, which is defined as a sidewalk, street or any other public ground. If the weapon is loaded, you can be put in prison for two years and face serious fines. If the weapon is a large capacity item, you can get up to 10 years in prison and at least 1 year in jail.
Possession of a Firearm in Commission of a Felony
If you are charged with a felony and had a firearm while you were committing it, you can be charged with other state crimes. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 18B states the crimes of possessing a firearm in the commission of a felony. A conviction of carrying a gun while committing a felony will get you at least five years in prison. If it was a large capacity firearm, you can get up to 10 years in prison. These sentences are on top of whatever sentence you get when you receive a sentence for your other felony.
Carrying Loaded Firearm While Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
It is illegal to carry on yourself or in your vehicle a weapon when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Having a permit is not a defense to the charge. You can get 2.5 years in a house of corrections, as well as a $5000 fine.
Illegal Discharge of a Weapon
It is against the law to discharge a weapon within 500 feet of any dwelling without the permission of the owner. You can get three months in prison for this conviction as well as a fine.
Weapons and Firearms Crimes and Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Many Massachusetts weapons crimes have mandatory minimum sentences. This means the absolute minimum that the judge can order you to serve. Mandatory minimum sentences in Massachusetts have received broad criticism as being often unfair and unjust. For example, a first time offender who makes a single mistake of carrying an unlicensed firearm will be sentenced to 18 months in prison. And that is required whether or not the judge agrees with the sentence.
Critics of these harsh sentences in Massachusetts have been calling for reform. It seems possible there could be changes in the future for punishments for weapons crimes in this state. However, at this time, defendants in Massachusetts still face harsh mandatory minimum sentences.
Possible Defenses to Weapons Charges
- Motion to Suppress Evidence: If the firearm was seized via an unlawful search of your home or car, the evidence cannot be used against you.
- Lack of possession: Most weapons charges require you to be in possession of the firearm. ‘Possession’ is a complex legal term which implies control and power over the gun. A good defense attorney can argue that you did not actually possess the firearm, if, for example, you were a passenger in the car where an illegal weapon was present.
- Lack of knowledge of weapon: The state prosecutor must prove that you possessed the weapon knowingly. This knowledge component is not always easy for the prosecutor to meet. This is especially true in a case with a passenger in a vehicle with a weapon inside it. Unless you knew it was there, and you possessed it, the state cannot convict you of illegally carrying that weapon.
What To Do Next
If you have been charged with a weapons crime in Massachusetts, Attorney Nathan is the experienced criminal defense attorney you need. The prosecuting attorney will zealously attempt to convict you on your weapons charge, and you need a powerful legal advocate working at your side. For a criminal defense legal consultation, please contact him at (617) 472-5775.
- Massachusetts Laws About Guns and Other Weapons. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-law-about-guns-and-other-weapons#massachusetts-laws-