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On June 22, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s Sullivan Act, a 111-year-old state law placing strict limits on carrying a gun in public.
The Supreme Court’s ruling broadened the right of citizens to carry guns. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, New York’s legislature made certain areas off-limits to firearms possession, prompting at least 10 court challenges to that new state law.
On March 20, an appeals panel will consider several of the cases simultaneously, according to The New York Times, which describes the ongoing legal battles over state firearms laws as “a dizzying sequence in which judges have tossed out rules, only for higher courts to reinstate them again and again.”
All this has left many New Yorkers confused about when, where, and under what circumstances they can legally possess a firearm.
If you own a firearm, you should know the penalties and punishments associated with gun-related charges in New York. And, if you are charged with a gun-related offense, you should consult the best criminal-defense lawyer in your area.
At Norman Mattar, in Buffalo, we leverage our deep knowledge and extensive experience in defending gun-related charges and consider all aspects of your case to identify the most favorable route forward.
Norman Mattar is a criminal-defense lawyer with more than 25 years of experience in the courts of Western New York. Aggressive and determined, he will work tirelessly to defend your rights and freedoms.
Call us today, at 716-633-4300, for a free consultation.
Types of gun charges in New York
New York’s gun laws, according to state police, are “designed to prevent criminals and those who threaten to harm themselves or others from buying or possessing guns, cracks down on illegal guns, and bans only the most dangerous assault weapons.
“The legislation includes provisions that protect and preserve law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms and does not restrict New Yorkers’ ability to buy, sell, keep or use guns.”
Gun-related criminal charges can be broken down into three categories: criminal possession, criminal use, and criminal sale.
We will focus here on criminal possession, the most common charge. There are several kinds of criminal-possession charges regarding firearms.
- Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree: As the least-severe gun charge in the state of New York, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree is the only firearm charge that’s a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison. You could face this charge if you possess any weapon banned by New York state law (including explosive bullets and armor-piercing ammunition) or if you have a gun and intend to use it for illegal purposes.
- Criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree: This is a Class D felony with 11 subdivisions, most of them classified as violent felonies and include situations surrounding the illegal possession of guns, explosives, and other per se weapons in New York. Sometimes, a fourth-degree weapon possession charge may be elevated to third degree criminal possession if the defendant was convicted of a misdemeanor or felony at a prior time. Other subsections note that defaced guns, owning three or more guns without a license, or possessing a firearm outside of one’s home or work also fall into third degree weapons possession charge.
- Criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree: A Class C felony offense punishable by at least three and a half years in jail, you may be charged with second degree criminal possession of a weapon if you are involved in one of two scenarios. These include possessing a loaded firearm, machine gun, or disguised gun with intent to use, and possessing five or more firearms (loaded or unloaded). Often, defendants are charged simply for possessing a loaded firearm—even if they did not intend to use it.
- Criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree: Though a seldom charged offense, first-degree criminal possession of a weapon is a serious, Class B felony that carries up to 25 years in prison. Two situations may lead to charges:
- knowingly possessing an explosive substance and intending to use it unlawfully to harm another person or property
- knowingly possessing 10 or more firearms
Criminal possession of a weapon in specific locations
In addition to these illegal weapon possession charges, you could also face charges that deal with possessing firearms in specific locations. Most of these charges deal with populated locations at risk of active shooters. Such sections include criminal possession of a weapon on or near a school, criminal possession of a weapon in a restricted location, and criminal possession of a firearm, rifle, or shotgun in a sensitive location.
Carrying a firearm in a sensitive location, a Class E felony, is the central question at issue in the changes to state law made in response to the June 2022 Supreme Court ruling. State law defines a sensitive location as
- any place owned or under the control of federal, state, or local government, for the purpose of government administration, including courts;
- any location providing health, behavioral health, or chemical dependence care or services;
- any place of worship or religious observation;
- libraries, public playgrounds, public parks, and zoos;
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, funded, or approved by the office of children and family services that provides services to children, youth, or young adults, any legally exempt childcare provider; a childcare program for which a permit to operate such program has been issued by the department of health and mental hygiene pursuant to the health code of the city of New York;
- nursery schools, preschools, and summer camps;
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated, or funded by the office for people with developmental disabilities;
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated, or funded by office of addiction services and supports;
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated, or funded by the office of mental health;
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated, or funded by the office of temporary and disability assistance;
- homeless shelters, runaway homeless youth shelters, family shelters, shelters for adults, domestic violence shelters, and emergency shelters, and residential programs for victims of domestic violence;
- residential settings licensed, certified, regulated, funded, or operated by the department of health;
- in or upon any building or grounds, owned or leased, of any educational institutions, colleges and universities, licensed private career schools, school districts, public schools, private schools licensed under article one hundred one of the education law, charter schools, non-public schools, board of cooperative educational services, special act schools, preschool special education programs, private residential or non-residential schools for the education of students with disabilities, and any state-operated or state-supported schools;
- any place, conveyance, or vehicle used for public transportation or public transit, subway cars, train cars, buses, ferries, railroad, omnibus, marine or aviation transportation; or any facility used for or in connection with service in the transportation of passengers, airports, train stations, subway and rail stations, and bus terminals;
- any establishment issued a license for on-premise consumption pursuant to article four, four-A, five, or six of the alcoholic beverage control law where alcohol is consumed and any establishment licensed under article four of the cannabis law for on-premise consumption;
- any place used for the performance, art entertainment, gaming, or sporting events such as theaters, stadiums, racetracks, museums, amusement parks, performance venues, concerts, exhibits, conference centers, banquet halls, and gaming facilities and video lottery terminal facilities as licensed by the gaming commission;
- any location being used as a polling place;
- any public sidewalk or other public area restricted from general public access for a limited time or special event that has been issued a permit for such time or event by a governmental entity, or subject to specific, heightened law enforcement protection, or has otherwise had such access restricted by a governmental entity, provided such location is identified as such by clear and conspicuous signage;
- any gathering of individuals to collectively express their constitutional rights to protest or assemble; or
- the area commonly known as Times Square, as such area is determined and identified by the city of New York; provided such area shall be clearly and conspicuously identified with signage.
Other gun charges and additional factors
In addition to possession charges, you could face more severe charges for intending to sell, purchase, or use a firearm.
Possession of a firearm without a license is punishable by up to one year in jail. When the person has a prior criminal conviction, he or she can be charged with a Class D felony. If the gun is loaded, you can be charged with a Class C felony. If you have been charged with illegal possession of a gun or the illegal sale of a firearm, you need a strong and effective defense effort.
Are you a felon charged with possession of a firearm?
If you are a convicted felon, the penalties for possession of a weapon can be very severe. You may be subject to mandatory minimum sentencing laws that would result in a lengthy prison sentence.
For more than 25 years, lawyer Norman Mattar has defended people accused of gun charges such as possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in Buffalo and Western New York. We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case and explain your options.
Felony gun possession has serious sentencing consequences
As a convicted felon, you cannot legally possess a gun in New York. You can be charged with possession of a firearm even if the gun was not in your actual possession. For example, you could be charged with having “constructive possession” of the weapon if it were in your car or your home. You could also be charged with criminal possession in the second degree if your firearm was found loaded at your home, even if you have a license and did not intend to use it.
Being found guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon has a mandatory minimum prison sentence. For example, under a federal law known as the Armed Career Criminal Act, you could be subject to a minimum prison sentence of 15 years if you possess a firearm and have three prior criminal convictions.
What are the defenses for felony gun possession?
Defenses in your case may revolve around how police encountered you and seized the weapon. You have Constitutional Rights, and if the police violated those rights, the evidence may be suppressed and the charges dismissed.
If the state has a weak case—if, say, the weapon was found in your car, where several other people had access to it—the police may have a hard time proving you had constructive possession and the prosecutor may be willing to negotiate a favorable plea bargain or the state may even dismiss the charges.
Protecting your Fourth Amendment rights
The Fourth Amendment protects our right to be secure from unreasonable searches of ourselves, our homes, our papers, and our possessions.
If the police were violating this right when they discovered your gun, you may be able to suppress that evidence, weakening the prosecution’s case or even opening the door to its possible dismissal.
Buffalo criminal-defense attorney Norman Mattar has a comprehensive understanding of the law regarding unreasonable searches and seizures, constructive possession, and other critical aspects of Federal and New York State law. When possible, he will seek to suppress evidence illegally obtained and obtain a dismissal of charges.
Clients of our law firm have a strong advocate who works hard to obtain the best possible outcome on their behalf.
Contact a Buffalo Gun Lawyer
For a Free consultation about a gun charge in the Buffalo area, call the Law Offices of Norman Mattar at 716-633-4300 or fill out the form below: