Virginia Federal Weapon Offenses Attorney
Although the regulation of weapons has traditionally been a concern for states’ police powers, the growth of interstate markets in the economy has permitted Congress to pass a number of regulations concerning firearms generally, including machine guns, sawed-off rifles, sawed-off shotguns, destructive devices (bombs), and body armor. If you have been charged with a federal weapons offense in Virginia, you should seek representation from a Virginia federal weapons attorney.
Differences Between Federal and State Weapons Offenses
The Commonwealth of Virginia has codified numerous laws to serve the public interest in protecting gun violence. Indeed, the majority of gun offenses are state crimes, which are prosecuted by Commonwealth’s Attorneys in state court, overseen by the Virginia court system and Virginia judges. However, even if you are arrested by local law enforcement in a part of Virginia, you may be charged with a federal offense, at which point your case is prosecuted by the US Attorney’s office. Furthermore, federal weapons offenses are only limited to certain classes of activity.
Federal Weapons Offenses
There are several different parts of the US Code that deal with firearms and other deadly weapons:
- 18 U.S. Code Chapter 44 – Firearms: This Chapter, comprised of Sections 921 to 931, covers general firearm restrictions, including licensing for dealers, manufacturers, importers, and collectors, in addition to regulation of interstate transport, interstate receipt, and rules about who can purchase and possess firearms. Chapter 44 also proscribes rules for body armor under Section 931.
- 18 U.S. Code Chapter 44 § 921, 922, 924 – Machine Guns, Destructive Devices, and Certain Other Firearms: This Chapter of the U.S.C. includes specific provisions for the manufacture, registration, and importation of certain firearms deemed to be particularly dangerous. This includes short-barrel (sawed-off) shotguns and rifles, machine guns (fully automatic weapons), silencers, and destructive devices (explosives). It also covers other areas of the firearm industry, like taxes and serial numbers.
- 18 U.S. Code Section 36, Drive-By-Shooting Act of 1994 – Drive-By Shooting: This section specifically outlaws drive-by shootings connected to major drug offenses.
- 18 U.S. Code Section 111 – Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers or Employees: This section covers assault of an officer (or some other officials or employees), including enhanced penalties where the assault occurred with the use of a deadly weapon.
Since these different laws proscribe violations that require proof of different elements, it is crucial that you contact a Virginia federal gun lawyer to learn exactly what these laws cover and how they may apply to your case.
Importing, Manufacturing, or Dealing Firearms
- 18 U.S. Code Section 923
To Someone without a Background Check
Selling or transferring a handgun or other firearm to a person without conducting a background check and checking for valid identification is a violation of federal law accompanied by penalties of a fine, up to one year in prison, or both. Sections 922(t), 924(a)(5).
By Someone or a Business Without a License
It is unlawful for any unlicensed person to willfully import, manufacture, or deal in firearms. In addition, shipping, transporting, or receiving any firearm from out-of-state or another country is illegal. This also applies to ammunition. 18 U.S.C. Section 922(a)(1).
To an Unlicensed Person
It is unlawful for any licensed dealer, collector, manufacturer, or importer to sell, ship, or transport any firearm to any unlicensed person through interstate or foreign commerce (which means crossing state lines or to someone outside the country). There are certain exceptions. Section 922(a)(2).
Receiving from an Unlicensed Person
It is unlawful for any licensed person (e.g., dealer, collector, manufacturer, importer) to receive firearms or to transport into the state firearms bought from an unlicensed person. There are also some exceptions to this section as a result of differences in requirements across states. Section 922(a)(3). Contact a federal gun lawyer in Virginia to learn how the state requirements may interact with federal regulations.
To Juveniles or People Under 21
It is unlawful for any licensed dealer, collector, manufacturer, or importer to sell or deliver any firearm or ammunition to someone the licensee knows or should know is under 18 years of age. In addition, it is unlawful to sell or deliver any firearm or ammunition that is not a shotgun, rifle, or ammunition for those weapons, to someone the licensee knows or should know is under 21 years of age. Section 922(b)(1).
To Someone Who Cannot Have Firearms per State Law
It is unlawful for a licensed person to sell or deliver any firearm or ammunition to an individual who, pursuant to state or local law, cannot purchase, own, or possess a firearm. Section 922(b)(2).
To Someone Out-of-State
It is unlawful for a licensed person to sell or deliver firearms to a party (person or corporation) who resides out-of-state unless the party meets with the licensee in person and the transaction is fully legal in both states. This also does not apply to renting or loaning firearms for lawful hunting purposes. Section 922(b)(3). Since proving these elements or the proscribed requirements (e.g., meeting with the party) can be fact-specific, it is important that you contact an experienced Virginia federal gun lawyer who can tell you if your actions constitute a criminal offense.
To Someone Without Keeping Records Such as Name, Age, Residence of the Buyer
It is unlawful to sell or deliver any firearms or armor piercing ammunition without keeping records of the person’s name, age, and residence, or the corporation’s identity. Section 922(b)(5).
Machine-guns, Short-Barreled Shotguns and Rifles, or Destructive Devices
It is unlawful to sell or deliver machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, or any destructive devices (explosives) unless expressly authorized by the Attorney General. Section 922(b)(4).
Any interstate transport of machine guns, short-barreled (i.e., sawed-off) rifles and shotguns, or destructive devices by an unlicensed person is also unlawful unless specifically authorized by the Attorney General. Section 922(a)(4).
From One Unlicensed Party to Another
It is unlawful for an unlicensed party (person or corporation) to transport, sell, trade, give, or deliver any firearms to another unlicensed party. Section 922(a)(5).
Delivery to a Common Carrier without Written Notice
It is unlawful to deliver firearms or ammunition to a common carrier for interstate or foreign transport or shipping without written notice. A common carrier is typically a third party who ships or transports goods or people. This does not apply to common carriers who are also licensed dealers, collectors, manufacturers, or importers.
Regarding the transportation of people, a person possessing a firearm or ammunition may transfer them to the conductor, pilot, or operator for the duration of the trip. Section 922(e). Like other violations discussed above, this is a fact-specific inquiry and only a federal gun attorney in Virginia can fully and accurately evaluate how it applies to your case.
Armor Piercing Ammunition
It is unlawful to import, manufacture, sell, or deliver armor piercing ammunition to anyone in the United States except for use by the United States government or for the purposes of authorized testing or experimentation. Section 922(a)(7)-(8).
The penalty for any of the foregoing unlawful violations is a fine or up to five years in federal prison, or both. 18 U.S.C. Section 924(a)(1).
More Severe Importation, Manufacture, and Dealing Offenses
The violations described below are accompanied by harsher penalties of a fine, up to 10 years in federal prison, or both. Section 924(a)(2).
Lying in Connection to a Firearm Purchase
It is unlawful for any person to “make any false or fictional oral or written statement” or to use fake identification in connection to purchasing ammunition or firearm. Section 922(a)(6).
Sale to a Prohibited Person
It is unlawful to sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer a firearm to a person one knows or one should know:
- Is a felon (prior felony conviction)
- Is a fugitive from justice
- Unlawfully uses or is an addict of a controlled substance
- Is mentally ill (or has been committed to a mental institution in the past)
- Is an undocumented immigrant or in the country on a nonimmigrant visa
- Has been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces
- Has renounced his or her U.S. citizenship
- Is the subject of a protective or restraining order for stalking, harassment, or threatening an intimate partner or an intimate partner’s child
- Has a prior conviction for a crime of domestic violence
These prohibitions do not apply to licensed dealers, manufacturers, importers, or collectors or to someone who otherwise has been exempted from these restrictions. Section 922(d). Contact a federal criminal lawyer today to learn what exactly constitutes the “reasonably should have known” element of this crime.
Possession by Prohibited Persons
If any prohibited person (listed above) transports or ships firearms across state lines, or purchases or possesses a firearm that has been sold or transported across state lines in the past, it is a federal weapons offense with a penalty of a fine, up to ten years in federal prison, or both. Section 922(g); Section 924(a)(2).
If a person with three prior convictions for violent felonies or major drug offenses is convicted under this section, that person will be subject to an enhanced penalty of a mandatory minimum 15 years in federal prison. Section 924(e).
The United States Code has a specific statute that covers the unlawful possession of body armor by prohibited persons. If a violent felon possesses body armor that has been sold in interstate or foreign commerce (i.e., crossing state lines), it is a violation of Section 931. This offense is punishable by a fine, up to three years in federal prison, or both. Section 924(a)(7).
Stolen Firearms and Firearms with Removed/Altered Serial Number
It is unlawful to ship, transport, receive, possess, sell, or transfer a stolen firearm across state lines, or to do so with any firearm that has crossed state lines in the past. Section 922(j). This also applies to any firearm that has had its serial number removed or altered. Section 922(k).
The penalty for these violations is a fine, up to five years in prison, or both. Sections 924(a)(2), 924(a)(1)(B).
The theft of a firearm from a licensed dealer, collector, manufacturer, or importer is a violation punishable by a fine, up to 10 years in federal prison, or both. Sections 922(u), 924(i)(1).
Certain prohibited weapons are subject to more stringent and comprehensive regulation that either tightly controls or attempts to entirely suppress the market.
Machine-guns are defined as weapons that discharge (or can be easily modified to discharge) more than once with a single pull of the trigger. They are also known as automatic weapons. Section 5845(b).
The knowing possession or transfer (by any means) of a machine-gun is a violation of federal law punishable by a fine, up to ten years in federal prison, or both. Sections 922(o); 924(a)(2). This does not apply to transfer or possession under the authority of the United States or any US department or agency. It also does not apply to lawful transfer or possession of machine-guns that were legal before this law came into effect. Contact a Virginia federal gun lawyer today to learn if your transfer falls within the provisions of this law.
Plastic or Undetectable Weapons
It is unlawful to transport, manufacture, import, possess, sell, ship, deliver, receive, or otherwise transfer a plastic or undetectable firearm. Specifically, this applies to weapons that cannot be detected by common walk-through metal detectors or by X-ray machines used at airports. Section 922(p).
A violation of Section 922(p) is punishable by a fine, up to five years in federal prison, or both. Section 924(f).
Other Prohibited Weapons
Transporting, selling, or delivering a destructive device, short-barreled (sawed-off) rifle or shotgun, or a machine gun, in interstate commerce (crossing state lines) is punishable by up to five years in federal prison. Sections 922(a)(4), 924(a)(1)(B).
A destructive device is defined as any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas (e.g., grenade, mine, bomb, rocket, or missile), any weapon that propels an explosive, or any combination of parts that can be used to create a destructive device. Section 921(a)(4).
Firearm Use/Possession in Crime of Violence/Drug Trafficking Offense
It is unlawful for any person to possess or use a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or drug trafficking offense. This is considered to be a separate and distinct felony from the underlying offense, and the prison sentences for violating this law are not subject to probation or parole. The mandatory minimum penalties for a violation of this section depend on the circumstances of the possession or use of the firearm, whether the firearm is a prohibited weapon, and whether the accused has prior convictions under this section. Section 924(c). The harshest penalty applies.
In the case of use or possession of a firearm that is not prohibited, by a person with no prior convictions under this law:
- (1)(A)(i) Mere possessed during the commission of the crime: Mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison.
- (1)(A)(ii) Brandishing the firearm or making the presence of the firearm known with the purpose of intimidation: Mandatory minimum of seven years in federal prison.
- (1)(A)(iii) Discharging the firearm: Mandatory minimum of ten years in federal prison.
- (5)(A) Possession of armor piercing ammunition: Mandatory minimum 15 years or an additional five year mandatory minimum to a harsher penalty that applies under this section.
Enhanced penalties accompany the use or possession of prohibited weapons. Specifically, if:
- (1)(B)(i) The firearm is a short-barreled (sawed-off) shotgun or rifle, or a semiautomatic assault weapon: Mandatory minimum ten years in federal prison.
- (1)(B)(ii) The weapon is a machine gun or a destructive device, or the firearm is equipped with a muffler or a silencer: Mandatory minimum 30 years in federal prison.
Regarding prior convictions under this law, the penalties are enhanced as described below:
- (1)(C)(i) One or more prior convictions and the weapon at issue is not a machine-gun or a destructive device: Mandatory minimum 25 years in federal prison.
- (1)(C)(ii) At least one prior conviction and the weapon is a machine-gun, a destructive device, or a firearm otherwise equipped with a silencer: Mandatory minimum life sentence.
In addition, any person charged with conspiracy to commit a drug trafficking or violent crime with possession or use of a firearm or destructive device will face up to 20 years in federal prison. Section 924(o).
Possession of a Firearm in a Federal Facility
Possessing or attempting to possess a firearm in a federal facility is unlawful and punishable by a fine, up to one year in prison, or both. Section 930(a).
If such a person possesses or attempts to possess the firearm in order to commit a crime, the violation is punishable by up to five years in federal prison. Section 930(b).
The Importance of a Federal Gun Lawyer
As you have read, federal weapons offenses are very serious crimes. Furthermore, they are prosecuted by skillful and experienced federal lawyers with the US Attorney’s office. On one hand, federal weapon offenses can be attached to arrests by local Virginia law enforcement agencies. However, they may also be the result of investigations by federal agencies with an abundance of time, resources, and experience to pursue your charge or charges.
Nonetheless, federal weapons offenses are not hopeless for the accused. With the expertise of a federal gun lawyer in Virginia, you can build a strong defense to protect your freedom. Federal criminal attorneys are specifically qualified to handle cases in federal courts.
If you have been charged with a federal weapons offense, if you have been contacted by authorities concerning federal gun crimes, or if you suspect you are being investigated, contact a dedicated federal weapons offenses attorney immediately.