Massachusetts Guns & Firearms Charges And Penalties + Statute Of Limitations
When it comes to gun laws, Massachusetts is one of the toughest states. If a guns is misused, the chance of injury or even death is high and this is one of the reasons why courts take these crimes seriously. All over the country, gun laws are a topic of hot debate. The 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that people have the right to bear arms. At the same time, states are allowed to individually regulate how people can own and use their weapons. In Massachusetts, there are countless laws that make many actions that involve a weapon a criminal act. Guns and firearms charges are serious and a conviction will affect people for the rest of their lives, limiting the jobs they can have and even the homes they can live in.
Laws and Penalties
There are several laws governing guns and firearms in Massachusetts. Those that are most commonly seen in court are as follows:
• Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 10(h)(1), it is illegal to possess a shotgun, rifle or firearm without a license or permit. This law applies even if a gun is kept solely in a domestic property or place of business. If convicted, a minimum sentence of two years in prison can be imposed.
• Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 10(h)(1), it is illegal to carry a rifle or shotgun in a public way. A public way is any public ground, including sidewalks and streets. If it is a loaded weapon, a prison sentence of up to two years will be imposed, as well as steep fines. If it is a ‘large capacity’ weapon, then a prison sentence of between one and 10 years will be imposed.
• Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 18B, an additional criminal charge can be imposed if a person is charged with a felony and was in possession of any type of firearm at that time. If convicted, a minimum prison sentence of five years will be imposed. In the case of a ‘large capacity’ weapon, the prison sentence will be at least 10 years. Additionally, a sentence will be imposed for the underlying felony.
• Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 10H, it is illegal to carry a loaded firearm on your person or in your vehicle if you are under the influence of any substances. This is true even if you have a permit to carry the firearm. A penalty of up to two and a half years in prison can be imposed, as well as a fine of up to $5,000.
• Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 12F, it is illegal to discharge any type of firearm in a 500 foot vicinity of a dwelling, unless permission of the owner has been obtained. A prison sentence of up to three months could be imposed.
Most guns and firearms offenses in Massachusetts carry minimum sentences. This means that the convict will always spend at least some time in prison. This is a hotly contended issue, because people feel that a great injustice can be caused as a result. For instance, first time offenders who made a mistake could find themselves in prison for 18 months, even if the judge does not feel this is justified considering the circumstances. There are near constant calls for reform, and it is possible that Massachusetts will start listening to these protests now that there have been federal changes to mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. However, the laws still stand at the moment.
Guns & Firearms Defenses
A number of defenses exist against guns and firearms charges, including:
• A motion to suppress evidence. Here, the attorney will try to prove that the gun was seized in the process of an unlawful search. In many cases, weapons are seized from homes or vehicles, both of which are under strict protection of the 4th Amendment. If the search was unreasonable, the evidence cannot be accepted.
• Lack of possession. Here, the attorney will focus on the complex legal definition of ‘possession’. Possession implies that the defendant is in control of the weapon and has power over it. It can be argued, for instance, that you were not in control of a weapon that was found in a vehicle in which you were a passenger.
• Knowledge of the weapon. In this case, the attorney will focus on the burden of proof that lies with the prosecution to demonstrate that the defendants knew they were in possession of a weapon. It can be difficult to meet this requirement, particularly if the defendants were passengers in a vehicle. If it can be proven that the defendants did not know the weapon was there, they cannot be convicted of illegally carrying it either.
Statute of Limitations
Under Massachusetts General Laws 277 paragraph 63, the statue of limitations on guns and firearms charges is six years. However, if a crime was committed with the firearm, such as bodily harm, assault, murder or robbery, then the statute of limitations may be different for the underlying crime. Additionally, the statute can be tolled if the defendant was out of state for a period of time. The statute starts on the day the alleged offense took place.
Guns & Firearms Cases
• Boston’s 2015 gun buyback program could fill one holster
• Police officers killed more often in states with higher gun ownership
• NRA calls for review of gun free areas
• The Liberal Gun Club likes both guns and Democrats
• Feds claim narcotics link in gun trafficking case