An experienced criminal defense lawyer can make a difference
Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, aimed at reducing gun violence in New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, New London, New Britain and communities throughout the state.
One of these laws is C.G.S. § 53a-217 - “Criminal possession of a firearm, ammunition or an electronic defense weapon.” The intent of the law is to keep firearms out of the hands of people the state would consider dangerous. But the application of the law is not always fair.
A person is considered in violation of the law if in possession of a firearm, ammunition or an electronic defense weapon and:
- Has been convicted of a felony (there are a few exceptions), or
- Has been convicted of certain violent or intimidating misdemeanors on or after October 1, 2013, or
- Has been convicted as a delinquent for the commission of a serious juvenile offense, or
- Has been discharged from custody within the preceding twenty years after having been found not guilty of a crime due to mental disease or defect, or
- Is subject to a restraining or protective order of a state court, or a foreign order of protection, in a case involving the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against another person, or
- Was confined on or after October 1, 2013, in a hospital for people with psychiatric disabilities under a probate court order within the past: a) 60 months; or b) 12 months, if the person has a valid permit or certificate in effect before October 1, 2013, or
- Is subject to a firearms seizure order, issued after notice and an opportunity to be heard, or
- Is prohibited from shipping, transporting, possessing or receiving a firearm for mental health reasons pursuant to federal law.
A violation of this law is considered a class C felony. Penalties include a mandatory two years in prison and possibly as much as ten years, a mandatory fine of $5,000 and possibly as much as $10,000, and/or three years of probation. That’s why it’s critical to be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Potential defense strategies for criminal possession of a firearm
The prosecution must prove each element of the crime through evidence and witness testimony. A defense attorney will closely examine the case being made and look for weaknesses. How a lawyer chooses to respond to charges depends on the facts of each case. Common defense strategies include:
- Arguing illegal search and seizure – Police must follow certain protocols and procedures to avoid violating a suspect’s constitutional right against illegal search and seizure. For instance, firearms are often discovered during traffic stops, which require reasonable suspicion to pull the vehicle over in the first place and probable cause to search the vehicle. A lawyer will look closely at how the firearm was discovered and can file a motion to suppress that evidence if the constitutional rights of the accused were violated. If successful, a prosecution’s case becomes much weaker.
- Refuting constructive possession – In some cases, a firearm is found in a home or vehicle where there are multiple people. Prosecutors may argue that a suspect is guilty because a firearm was found in a home or vehicle, even though the suspect was not in actual physical possession of that firearm. An experienced defense lawyer can find ways to refute that argument, depending on the circumstances.
- Seeking a charge reduction – A lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduced charge, one that does not include a mandatory prison sentence.
- Pursuing a diversionary program – If the person charged does not have a criminal record, they may be eligible for acceptance into an accelerated rehabilitation program. If successfully completed, charges are dismissed.
How a criminal defense attorney can help
A lawyer can advise you of your rights and guide you through the legal process. In addition, a lawyer can:
- Investigate the charges – Attorneys work with their own investigators to look at the circumstances of the arrest, review police reports and other documents, examine physical evidence, and interview witnesses.
- Examine police conduct – An attorney will look for answers to several questions. Did police follow proper procedures when investigating and making an arrest? Was evidence legally obtained? Were any constitutional rights violated?
- Protect your rights – Prosecutors are often eager to convict. People who have been arrested often aren’t thinking clearly and may feel pressured to admit to doing something wrong. An attorney can make sure their rights are protected.
- Craft a defense strategy – The most effective strategy will be based on many different factors, including the facts of the case.
- Negotiate with the prosecution – Depending on the strength of the case, it may be in a defendant’s best interests to plead guilty to a lesser charge for a reduced sentence.
- Represent you at trial – If a case does go to court, a defense attorney can provide an aggressive defense in front of a judge or jury.
If arrested for criminal possession of a firearm, it’s important to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can review the details of your arrest, discuss your legal options, and give you an honest assessment of where things stand. You can then make informed choices about how to proceed.