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Defending Weapons Offense Cases in Virginia

There are a variety of weapon offense charges that a person can face. However, there are also a variety of weapons offense defense strategies available depending on the charges the person faces. If you are facing charges, you should contact a weapons offense lawyer who can help you understand the potential defense strategies that you may be able to use.

Defense Strategies in Weapons Offense Cases

The defense strategies that a person should use in a weapons offense case depends on the charges the person faces. If they are charged with possession of a concealed weapon, a lawyer will look at whether it is a weapon that is proscribed by the statute or whether it falls in a gray area. If it falls in the gray area, a lawyer can make a good argument that their weapon is not a dirk, a switchblade knife or a bowie knife, and that the weapon itself is not proscribed by the statute.

If a convicted felon is charged with possession of a firearm, a lawyer will look at the prior conviction. They will look at whether it was within the past ten years and whether the conviction was valid. Another way to attack a weapons charge is if someone is charged with intentionally firing into an occupied dwelling or vehicle. For example, a lawyer can attack the mens rea. This means the lawyer will look at whether it was an intentional firing, a reckless mishandling of a firearm, or possibly an accident. Challenging how the gun went off, and whether it was reckless, intentional, or accidental is a common defense when dealing with cases in which firearms are actually fired.

Evidentiary Issues

In cases that involve a person firing a gun, the evidentiary issues have dealt with intent. There are issues with the circumstances surrounding the firing of a gun in terms of how the prosecution is able to prove that a person intentionally fired and how they knew it was not an accident. A lawyer can also attack whether it was a weapon that they were not allowed to possess under the statute.

Challenges in Weapon Offense Cases

The penalties for weapon charges, aside from simple misdemeanors, are pretty stringent for felony gun charges. For instance, if you are a convicted felon and found in possession of a firearm in Virginia, that carries a mandatory prison sentence of two years. If that prior felony offense was a violent offense, then there is a five-year mandatory prison term. When you deal with such harsh penalties, it takes away the room to challenge issues that you could potentially win at trial, because the person who is accused of the crime faces such a harsh penalty.

In cases that would probably go to trial, the prosecutor may be more amenable to a plea agreement. On the other hand, it creates a situation where there is no wiggle room for plea agreements because the prosecutor has a valid case and it will not be very difficult for them to prove it. In this case, they will get a two-year or five-year sentence. There is not much of an option in terms of a lesser included offense that a client could take responsibility for in order to receive a lesser sentence. That is a huge challenge that comes up in these types of cases.

Another situation involves cases where you have an underlying felony offense like robbery.  If somebody is charged with robbery, but they are also charged with using a firearm in the commission of robbery, which is a separate felony offense, not only will they be exposed to the criminal liability for the robbery, but they also face a mandatory three-year term on a first offense for the firearm charge. If it is a second offense, there is a five-year mandatory term. They get penalized twice, so that is a huge challenge in firearm cases.

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