Massachusetts protects the right of its citizens to bear arms, but the law in this state nevertheless prohibits the possession of firearms in specific situations. If you’re accused of a firearms violation, you will need to be advised and represented by a Boston weapons crimes attorney.
Massachusetts law spells out who may own, carry, or use a firearm and what kinds of firearms are allowed in this state, so a person who wants to possess or carry a firearm in Massachusetts should know the state’s weapons laws.
If you’re charged with a weapons violation, what is your recourse? What are the penalties for a conviction? How can you defend yourself against a weapons charge? If you’ll continue reading, these questions will be answered in this short introduction to the firearms laws in Massachusetts.
What Can Happen If the Police Find You With a Firearm?
Weapons charges may be filed when firearms are discovered during a traffic stop, an arrest, or the investigation of another crime. It’s difficult to say exactly what the penalty may be for a firearms crime conviction because so much must be considered, but you cannot expect leniency.
In fact, if you’re convicted of a firearms charge in Massachusetts, a prison or jail sentence is likely. This state enforces some of the strictest firearms laws in the nation. To own a firearm in Massachusetts, you must satisfy the state’s extensive registration and permit requirements.
What Does the Law Provide?
A person may be charged with the illegal possession of a firearm in Massachusetts even if no threats were made, no one was injured, and even if nobody actually saw the firearm. Sales and purchases, ownership, and the use of firearms is regulated throughout Massachusetts.
The state prohibits anyone from knowingly possessing a firearm, loaded or not, outside of that person’s residence or business, or without a valid license or any of the permits required for the weapon. Possession is defined as having a firearm on one’s person or in one’s vehicle.
The law provides for a mandatory prison term upon conviction and precludes parole until eighteen months of that sentence has been served. The minimum sentence increases for second and subsequent offenses. After any weapons conviction, the weapon in question will be seized.
The law includes harsher penalties for illegally possessing particularly dangerous firearms. For instance, if someone is convicted for illegally possessing a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun, in some circumstances, that person could face life in prison. Firearms charges in this state include:
- the unlawful possession of certain weapons by any person: machine guns (with limited exceptions), sawed-off shotguns, silencers, and bump stocks
- the unlawful possession by certain individuals of any firearm
Could You Be Convicted for the Unlawful Possession of a Firearm?
To convict you for illegally possessing a firearm in Massachusetts, the state must prove these four “elements” of its case:
- The defendant had an illegal firearm on his or her person or in his or her vehicle.
- The weapon must be an actual firearm. Massachusetts law defines a firearm as a revolver, a pistol, or another weapon, loaded or not, with a barrel that is shorter than sixteen inches. The state must prove the weapon in the defendant’s possession meets the legal definition.
- The state must also prove the defendant possessed the weapon knowingly. If someone else placed the firearm in the defendant’s car, purse, briefcase, or backpack without the defendant’s knowledge, the defendant can’t be convicted.
- Finally, the state must show the defendant lacked a license or registration card for the weapon.
What Are the Other Firearms Laws in Massachusetts?
Persons who have been convicted of certain crimes lose their right to own a firearm and may be penalized under both federal and state law if found to be in possession of any firearm.
Along with these laws against possessing firearms, Massachusetts also enforces laws that govern firearm ownership. For instance, a firearm must be stored in a locked, secured container. Owners must have licenses for firearms and complete a safety training program.
A license to carry is required to carry a concealed handgun in this state. Businesses that sell firearms must be licensed and must maintain accurate sales records.
How Will Your Attorney Handle Your Defense?
If you’re charged with violating any Massachusetts weapons law, you’ll need the advice and services of a Boston weapons crimes lawyer. Each case and defendant is unique, so how will your lawyer defend you against a weapons charge?
The most basic defense against the charge of illegally possessing a weapon is that the defendant did not in fact possess the weapon. In these cases, a prosecutor must tie the defendant to the weapon, and if no link can be established, the defendant may be found not guilty.
A second possible defense – for those who have not lost their right to own firearms – may be that the weapon was not actually illegal. Massachusetts law has exceptions which may apply in some cases, but unlike some other states, there are no exceptions for collectors or for antique weapons.
What If the Crime Is Discharging a Firearm Illegally?
If someone illegally discharges a firearm, the defenses are comparable to the defenses that may be offered against assault charges. The possible defenses include:
- misidentification (another person discharged the weapon)
- fabrication (no crime occurred and the charge is false)
- proving that the “weapon” wasn’t actually a weapon
- insufficient evidence (no eyewitness or video evidence)
In some weapons cases, police agencies may violate a defendant’s constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The police must have a valid warrant to search for and seize a weapon. Charges based on illegal searches and seizures may be dropped or dismissed.
What Else Should You Know About Firearms Laws in Massachusetts?
If you violate a weapons law, and you’re convicted, you will face serious penalties in Massachusetts. However, anyone could be charged with a firearms violation due to a misunderstanding, a misidentification, or even because the charge has been fabricated.
Whatever the truth is, if you are placed under arrest and charged with a firearms violation, a Boston weapons crimes attorney will uncover the facts and fight aggressively and effectively for justice on your behalf.
This cannot be stressed strongly enough: If you’re accused of a weapons violation in or near the Boston area or elsewhere in Massachusetts, you must be advised and represented by a Boston weapons crimes lawyer, and you must contact that lawyer as quickly as possible.