Law is not black or white, it's grey



Federal possession of a firearm (gun) by convicted felon

If you are a convicted felon, you can't possess guns.  Under 18 USC 922, it is federal crime for a felon to possess a gun or firearm.  One exception is in Florida state court, if you receive a withhold of adjudication after pleading nolo contendere (no contest), you are technically not a convicted felon.  However, in Florida state court, if you plead guilty and get a withhold of adjudication, you are for Federal purposes, a convicted felon.  Also, even if you plea no contest, if you are adjudicated guilty, you are a convicted felon.  That can be the predicate for an armed career criminal act sentence.

If your civil rights to possess a gun are restored, that may be a defense to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. You should get your civil rights restored if you have a felony conviction. If the Feds convict you, you must get your rights restored through the Feds.

Generally, 18 USC 922 is a strict liability statute.  That means that generally the state of mind of the defendant is irrelevant. However, entrapment by estoppel, justification and insanity may all be raised as defenses to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

What are some defenses to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon?

Entrapment Defense to federal possession of firearm by convicted felon

Another defense to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is entrapment by estoppel. Generally, this is when a government official tells you it is ok to possess a gun and you believe that person. However, entrapment by estoppel does not apply if one government gives you the wrong advice and another government prosecutes you. For instance, if a State court judge says you are not a convicted felon, the Feds could still prosecute you if you are a convicted felon.

Justification defense to federal possession of firearm by convicted felon

Justification is also a defense of possession of firearm by a convicted felon. The defendant must show that the defendant was under unlawful and present, imminent, and impending threat of death or serious injury, the defendant did not negligently or recklessly place himself in a situation where he would be forced to engage in criminal conduct, the defendant had no reasonable legal alternative to violating the law and there was a direct causal link between the criminal action and the avoidance of the threatened harm.

Insanity as a Defense to possession of firearm by convicted felon

Insanity is rarely used as a defense in gun cases. However, it is an affirmative defense to a gun charge.

Constructive possession defense

What if the gun is not found on your person? You may have a constructive possession defense case at trial. Constructive possession requires both the intent and the power to exercise dominion and control over the gun. Let’s say the gun was found in a briefcase of your friend – even after you and your friend just completed a burglary. That could be enough reasonable doubt for a jury to find you not guilty. 

Use or carrying a firearm with violence or drug offenses 924(c)

18 USC 924(c), in federal court is commonly called a “924c charge”, makes it a crime to use or carry a gun in relation to any crime involving violence or drug trafficking.


Just hiding a gun nearby, generally, is not enough to convict under the “use” of a firearm. Using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime requires proof of active employment of the firearm. Possession of a gun in a bag in the locked trunk of a car or in a locked footlocker in a bedroom closet generally doesn’t constitute use. This assumes the defendant was smart enough to keep his mouth shut.


To be convicted under the “carry” prong of 924(c), it is enough if the gun is carried in the glove compartment or under the floor mat of a car from which drugs are distributed. A gun carried in the trunk of car and/or a gun carried to where a drug deal is going down is sufficient for a conviction.

However, you can’t be convicted under the carry prong if the government just proves simple possession of the firearm – if it is not transported.

Consecutive sentencing for Firearms convictions under 924(c)

The sentence imposed must be served consecutively (after) any other sentence. If there are multiple 924(c) convictions, they also must be served consecutively. For instance, a second 924(c) conviction requires a 20 year sentence.

Minimum mandatory prison sentences for 924(c) gun charges 

There are mandatory minimum sentences under this section. For instance, if the firearm was brandished, 7 years, discharged, 10 years to life, short-barreled rifle or short barreled shotgun, 10 years, machine gun, 30 years. Also, there are other sentencing enhancements like the Armed Career Criminal Act, where the defendant has 3 or more prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses.

Robbery with a firearm - Not Guilty after Jury Trial.

The client, an 18 year old African American male, was facing life in prison with a 10 year minimum mandatory sentence. At trial, I was able to show that the client had no knowledge that the robbery was about to take place.  A passenger in the car got out and robbed a lady with a purse. The client, driving the get away vehicle, left the scene at a high rate of speed. When the police came up behind the car, everybody, including the client, ran, jumped over two fences, and eluded police for over 3 hours. The judge read my special requested jury instruction on duress. This was critical to our theory of defense. The reason my client ran after the police came up behind him was that the guy who robbed the lady pointed the gun in his general direction and told everybody to “get the f**k out of the car.” My client did not have a choice. He had to get out because he was under duress. The client just graduated high school. He was found not guilty after a jury trial just days before Christmas. His parents told me it was “the best Christmas gift anyone could give” and that “We don’t know how to thank you. You gave us our son back.” 

Not every case ends this way.  The truth is many people go to prison for gun charges.  There are no guarantees as to any outcome in any criminal case.  But, if you have a valid defense to gun charges, hopefully your lawyer will spot the issues, raise them and fight for them.



Contrary to what we see on t.v., there is no general registration for guns in U.S.   However, the tax code requires certain firearms be registered - machine gun, short barreled rifle, 16 inches or less, or short barreled shotgun.

Machine guns, silencers, short barreled shotguns are legal. You just have to pay the tax and be on the registry.

The definition of a firearm is different in the U.S. tax code. This includes the definitions for machine guns, silencers, short barrel rifles, and destructive devices.

There are many gray areas in definition of firearms.  Remember, "Law is not black and white, it's Grey".

What may at first seem to be illegal, may not be illegal.  A great federal gun lawyer listens to his clients because they may know more about firearms than anyone else.

In tax code cases, a federal gun charges client could be found not guilty if he did not know the characteristics of the firearm that suggested it needed to be regulated.

Knowledge is key.

If the firearm was made before 1899, it is not a firearm.

With knowledge defenses, there is a lot of subtelty in these gun cases.

What are some enhancements to federal gun charges?

Armed career criminal act and Career Offender

Armed career criminal act of 1984, there is a mandatory minimum of 15 year sentence, if a defendant has 3 or more violent felonies or serious drug convictions. Violent felony under ACCA and serious drug offense.

For 922(g)(1) convictions only, career offender sentencing guidelines adjustments requires 2 priors.


What is the distinction between the Armed career criminal act (ACCA) and Career Offender?

ACCA do not have a time limit. They can be as old as AUSA likes.

Career offender has to be trafficking offense. ACCA has to be punishable by 10 years. Depends on the state where the client was convicted. Sentence that counts is the sentence that could have been imposed.


Categorical analysis

2k1.1 gun guidelines – Any federal gun lawyer worth his salt will do an extensive investigation of his client's priors. He will get sentencing transcripts, plea colloquy transcripts and the plea paperwork. ACCA exposure can turn on a single word. e.g. sentence was not suspended because judge did not say it on the record. A great federal gun lawyer will try to nullify the convictions in state court. There may be an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

Florida prior convictions for armed career criminal act

A federal gun lawyer should get the certified convictions. In Florida, any sale or delivery except marijuana counts and is an ACCA predicate.


What are some issues in federal gun cases?

Is it real or a replica?

Full or semi-automatic?

When was the firearm manufactured?

Is the gun grandfathered?

Is it in the national firearms registry if its a machine gun?


Challenge the "science" of ballistics experts

Caliber is the fraction of an inch of the projectile, rifling are the grooves that are cut in the barrel, spins the projectile, stabilizes it allows it to travel faster.  The science of ballistics based on marks that they leave should always be challenged.   

Weird definition of a firearm - generally, under the U.S. criminal code, it can just be the receiver or frame. Not so with a machine gun.

Felon client can own the slide, not the receiver. If client thought it was an antique, that is a possible defense. Some people at gun shows even market the gun as an antique.  It's like "wink, wink, nod, nod, I know you are a convicted felon, so buy this gun from me."

Ammo or Ammunition possession by convicted felon

Ammunition is also contraband. Even empty cartridge casings count for ammo.

3D Firearms

Something rather new - 3D firearms. I saw a show on t.v. in 2014 about it.  It is not per se illegal to manufacture a firearm. However, they are supposed to have serial number. If it can expel a projectile for use of an explosive, it's a firearm.

Shotgun – meant to be fired from shoulder and has a smooth bore.

Machine gun – just can't have receiver – a convicted felon can have everything else. What a weird law.  

As you can see, there is a huge "grey area" in regards to federal fireams charges.    



“Law is not black and white, it's Grey”

Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon lawyer Grey Tesh can handle gun charges in federal court in Florida and all across the United States.  A criminal trial lawyer based out of West Palm Beach, Grey has satellite offices in Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Estero, Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida.



Armas de fuego

Posesión de armas de fuego (pistola ) Federal por delincuente convicto

Si tu eres un criminal condenado, no puedes poseer armas de fuego. Bajo el estatuto 18 USC 922, es un delito federal para un criminal condenado de poseer una pistola o arma de fuego. Una excepción es en los tribunales del estado de la Florida, si tu recibes una retención de convicción tras declararte nolo contendere (sin oposición ), técnicamente tu no es un criminal convicto. Sin embargo, en los tribunales del estado de Florida, si te declaras culpable y obtienes una retención de convicción, tu eres, para fines federales, un criminal convicto. Además, incluso si te declaras nolo contendere (sin oposición), si eres encontrado culpable, tu eres un criminal convicto. Eso puede ser el predicado para una sentencia bajo la ley sobre delincuentes habituales armados (armed career criminal act).

Si se restablecen tus derechos civiles para poseer un arma de fuego, eso puede ser una defensa a la posesión de un arma de fuego por un criminal condenado. Tu debes obtener tus derechos civiles restaurados si tienes una condena por delito grave. Si eres condenado por la corte federal, tu debes peticionar para restaurar tus derechos a través de los federales.

En general, el estatuto 18 USC 922 es una estricta ley de responsabilidad. Eso significa que, en general el estado mental del acusado es irrelevante. Sin embargo, atrapamiento por impedimento legal, la justificación y la locura puede todos ser criado como defensas a la posesión de un arma de fuego por un criminal condenado.

Cuáles son algunas defensas a la posesión de un arma de fuego por un criminal condenado?

La defensa de atrapamiento a la posesión federal de arma de fuego por un criminal condenado

Otra defensa a la posesión de un arma de fuego por un criminal condenado es el atrapamiento por impedimento legal. En general, esto es cuando un funcionario del gobierno le dice que está bien el poseer un arma de fuego y tu le crees a esa persona. Sin embargo, el atrapamiento por impedimento legal no se aplica si un gobierno te da el consejo equivocado y otro gobierno te enjuicia. Por ejemplo, si un juez de la corte estatal dice que tu no eres un delincuente convicto, los federales podrían todavía enjuiciarte si tu eres un criminal convicto.

La defensa de justificación a la posesión federal de arma de fuego por un criminal condenado

La justificación es también una defensa de la posesión de arma de fuego por un criminal condenado. El acusado debe demostrar que el acusado estaba bajo amenaza ilegal y el presente, inminente, y la inminente de muerte o lesiones graves, el acusado no por negligencia o por imprudencia se coloca en una situación en la que se vería obligado a participar en una conducta criminal, el acusado no tenía ninguna alternativa legal razonable para violar la ley y la existencia de una relación de causalidad directa entre la acción penal y la evitación del daño amenazado.

Defensa por aflicción mental a la posesión de armas de fuego por delincuente convicto

La defensa por aflicción mental es raramente utilizado como defensa en casos de armas. Sin embargo, es una defensa afirmativa a un cargo de armas.

La Defensa de posesión constructiva

Qué pasa si el arma no se encuentra en tu persona? Tu puedes tener una defensa de posesión constructiva en el juicio. La posesión constructiva requiere tanto la intención como la capacidad de ejercer dominio y control sobre el arma. Digamos que el arma fue encontrada en un maletín de tu amigo - incluso después de que tu y tu amigo acaban de completar un robo. Eso podría ser un duda razonable para que un jurado te encuentre no culpable.

Utilizar o llevar un arma de fuego con violencia o delitos relacionados con drogas 924 (c)

Bajo el estatuto 18 USC 924 (c), en una corte federal comúnmente se llama una "cargo 924c", que es un delito usar o portar un arma de fuego en relación con cualquier delito que implique violencia o narcotráfico.


Sólo ocultando un arma cerca, por lo general, no es suficiente para ser condenado bajo el "uso" de un arma de fuego. El uso de un arma de fuego durante y en relación con un delito de violencia o de un delito de tráfico de drogas requiere una prueba de empleo activa del arma de fuego. La posesión de un arma de fuego en una bolsa en el maletero de un automóvil cerrado o en un baúl bajo llave en un armario de la habitación en general no constituye uso. Esto supone que el acusado era lo suficientemente inteligente como para mantener la boca cerrada.

Llevar un Arma

Para ser condenado por “llevar un arma” bajo el estatuto 924 (c), es suficiente si la pistola se lleva en la guantera o debajo de la alfombra del piso de un vehículo en el que se distribuyen las drogas. Un arma transportada en el maletero del coche y/o una pistola llevado a donde un negocio de drogas está, es suficiente para una condena.

Sin embargo, tu no puedes ser condenado por “llevar un arma” si el gobierno sólo demuestra la simple posesión del arma de fuego - si no se transporta.

Sentencia consecutiva por convicciones por armas de fuego bajo 924 (c)

La sentencia impuesta debe ser servido de forma consecutiva (después) de cualquier otra sentencia. Si hay varias condenas bajo el estatuto 924 (c), también deben ser cumplidas consecutivamente. Por ejemplo, una segunda condena bajo 924 (c) requiere una sentencia de 20 años.

Sentencias de prisión mínimas obligatorias para cargos de armas bajo 924 (c)

Hay sentencias mínimas obligatorias bajo esta sección. Por ejemplo, si el arma de fuego se blandió, 7 años, arma de fuego descargada, 10 años a cadena perpetua, rifle de cañón corto o escopeta de cañón, 10 años, ametralladora, 30 años. Además, hay otras sentencias aumentadas, como la ley sobre delincuentes habituales armados (armed career criminal act), cuando el demandado tiene 3 o más condenas previas por delitos violentos o delitos graves de drogas.

Robo con un arma de fuego - No culpable después de juicio por jurado

El cliente, un hombre afroamericano de 18 años, se enfrentaba a cadena perpetua en la cárcel con una sentencia mínima obligatoria de 10 años. En el juicio, tuve la oportunidad de demostrar que el cliente no tenía conocimiento de que el robo estaba a punto de tener lugar. Un pasajero en el carro se bajó y robó a una señora con un bolso. El cliente, que estaba conduciendo el vehículo, dejó la escena a una gran velocidad. Cuando la policía se acercó detrás del coche, todos, incluyendo el cliente, corrieron, saltaron dos vallas, y eludieron a la policía durante más de 3 horas. El juez leyó mi instrucción especial al jurado sobre la coacción. Esto fue fundamental para nuestra teoría de la defensa. La razón por la que mi cliente corrió, cuando la policía vino detrás de él era que el tipo que robó a la señora apuntó el arma en su dirección general y le dijo a todos a "salir fuera del *** coche." Mi cliente no tenía una elección. Él tenía que salir porque estaba bajo coacción. El cliente acaba de graduarse de la escuela secundaria. Fue declarado no culpable después de un juicio con jurado, sólo unos días antes de Navidad. Sus padres me dijeron que era "el mejor regalo de Navidad que podía dar " y que " No sabemos cómo darte las gracias. Tu nos devolviste a nuestro hijo".

No todos los casos terminan de esta manera. La verdad es que mucha gente van a la prisión por cargos de armas de fuego. No hay garantías con respecto a cualquier resultado en cualquier caso criminal. Pero, si tu tienes una defensa válida contra cargos de armas de fuego, es de esperar que tu abogado va a detectar los problemas, y luchar por ellos.