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In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • The different types of firearm charges.
  • How Michigan state laws govern the use and different types of firearms.
  • The difference between state-level and Federal weapons offenses.

What Are The Different Types Of Firearm Charges In Michigan?

Weapons-related convictions include a wide range of potential consequences, depending on the nature of the offense. Because of this, it can be a harrowing experience to face federal gun charges in the state of Michigan — which is exactly why working with an attorney is so important.

While there are many different types of firearm charges at both a state and federal level in Michigan, the severity of the outcome of these potential convictions will vary based on who possesses the firearm, what type of firearm it is, and how the firearm has been used. In this article, we’ll dive into some of the most common weapons offenses we see at our firm each year.

Prohibited Persons (Status Offenses) Charges

Status offenses are crimes based on the illegal status of the person possessing the firearm. In these cases, firearm possession is deemed illegal because the defendant is labeled as a prohibited person.

Prohibited persons can fall into any of the following categories:

  • Individuals With Felony Charges: This applies to anyone who is convicted of a felony offense, which is defined under the federal statute as a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year. That is to say, the potential penalty exceeds one year.
  • Individuals With State Or Federal Domestic Violence Charges: Persons who have been convicted of domestic violence charges may not possess firearms. In fact, even simple misdemeanor convictions of domestic violence leave offenders ineligible to own and possess firearms.
    • Likewise, any time you are under the terms of a personal protection order or a restraining order you will be unable to possess or own a firearm. However, any person subject to the restraining order must be given notice of this action and the opportunity to defend themselves.
  • Individuals With A Documented History Of Mental Illness: This applies to persons who have been determined by a court to be mentally defective or who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
  • Individuals With A Documented History Of Substance Abuse
  • Fugitives
  • Illegal Aliens

If the prosecution can prove that an alleged offender falls into the category of being a “prohibited person” and that they own or possess a firearm, the scales tip against that defendant. Unfortunately, there are only a few openings to mount a defense to these charges. However, the team at Satawa Law has the experience and knowledge needed to stand with you and mitigate the severity of any potential consequences.

Illegal Firearm Charges

The second category of federal firearm charges relates to the type of firearm in possession. Outside of some minimal exceptions, the following types of firearms are illegal to own or possess will include:

  • Machine guns
  • Short barreled shotguns
  • Short barreled rifles
  • Concealable guns
  • Destructive devices
  • Prohibited ammunition
  • And more…

Firearms Used In The Commission Of Another Federal Criminal Offense

Finally, the third type of firearm offense is one where a firearm is used to aid or assist in the commission of another federal criminal offense. These charges are frequently called 924(c) charges after the statute under which they fall.

There are many different categories of federal criminal offenses in this area of the law and the details of every federal gun charge will vary greatly based on the circumstances specific to each unique case.

What Are The Laws That Govern Gun Charges In Michigan?

There are many statutes that govern the different categories of federal gun charges, including both United States Codes (USC) and state laws. Some of the most common statutes include…

  • Prohibited Persons – 18 USC 922 (g): In dealing with prohibited persons, 18 USC 922 (g) is the code that defines this category. You’ll frequently hear these referred to by judges, lawyers, and courtroom staff as 922 (g) offenses.
  • Domestic Violence Offenders: The details involving weapons offenses committed by persons charged with domestic violence misdemeanors lie at 18 USC 922 (g) (8) & (9). Meanwhile, it’s at Code 921 (a) (33) where you’ll find the definition of domestic violence as a misdemeanor under federal, state, or Indian tribal law.
  • Other Prohibited Persons: Definitions regarding convicted felons, people who are addicted to drugs, illegal aliens, and others are all detailed under 18 USC 922 (g), as well.
  • Prohibited Weapons – 18 USC 922 (o): Machine guns and other types of prohibited firearms fall under Title 18 United States Code Section 922 (o). This section specifically outlaws the resale or possession of a machine gun. However, registered machine guns that were lawfully purchased and possessed before this law passed in 1986 are considered to be lawful.
  • National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA): Many weapons fall under the NFA which uses a tax-based approach to firearm regulation. In short, this means that in order to possess certain weapons, you must have a tax stamp for them. One common example of this is a suppressor, (also commonly referred to as a silencer), which is illegal to possess without that special tax stamp.

If you want a suppressor for your hunting rifle, you must go through a very extensive background check. First, you will be photographed and fingerprinted. Then, all of your information is sent to the ATF, which conducts an extensive background investigation to determine whether there’s anything in your history that would make you ineligible to possess these special weapons.

  • 18 USC 924 (c): The statute that governs how a firearm is used in relation to committing a federal criminal offense is found at 18 USC 924 (c). This code has a relatively straightforward set of elements, essentially dictating that a person can be prosecuted based on the following:
  • Having used a firearm during a crime of violence or a drug offense.
  • Having carried a firearm during a crime of violence or drug offense.
  • Having possessed a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or a drug offense.

For those facing criminal weapons charges, the danger and difficulty of this statute is that it sets forth a mandatory minimum sentence.

For example, the first 924 (c) offense that you are convicted of starts with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. What’s more, that prison term must be served consecutively to any other felony you are convicted of.

If the firearm was brandished during the course of the offense, the mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction is raised to seven years. If the firearm was actually discharged, the sentence climbs to 10 years.

If the firearm was either a short-barreled rifle or a short-barreled shotgun, the mandatory sentence is a minimum of 10 years in prison served consecutively to the other felony charge. If it was a machine gun or a destructive device and had a silencer or a suppressor, the mandatory minimum sentence jumps to 30 years.

Finally, any second or subsequent conviction is punishable by a minimum that increases from five years to 25 years and, potentially, to life imprisonment. As a result of these steep penalties, any 924(c) charges are an extremely important part of case analysis wherever they are included as part of an indictment.

The third type of federal firearm offenses, are what are called the cases where the firearm is used to assist or aid in the commission of another federal crime. Those charges are frequently called 924(c) charges after the statute that is used to charge them, which is Title 18, United States Code 924(c). 924(c) has a relatively straightforward set of elements. 924(c) says that if a person uses or carries a firearm during and in relation to any crime of violence which has been prosecuted in a court of the United States or during a drug trafficking crime or possesses a firearm in furtherance of such offenses can be guilty of a 924(c).

The reason 924(c) cases are, so again, you have the idea that a firearm, the 924(c) can be prosecuted based on the use of a firearm during a crime of violence or a drug offense, the carrying of a firearm during a crime of violence or a drug offense or possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or a drug trafficking offense. The danger and difficulty of 924(c) counts is that they are a mandatory minimum. What I mean by that is that the first 924(c) that you are convicted of starts as a mandatory five years in prison and that prison term must be consecutive to any other felony that the person is convicted of. If the firearm was brandished, that sentence is raised to seven years. If the firearm was discharged, the sentence climbs to 10 years.

If the firearm was either a short barreled rifle or a short barreled shotgun, the sentence also climbs to a mandatory 10 years consecutive. If it was a machine gun or a destructive device, the mandatory minimum is raised to 30 years, or if the firearm has a silencer or a suppressor, again, the mandatory minimum portion of the sentence becomes 30 years. Any second or subsequent conviction is punishable by a minimum that increases from five years to 25 years or potentially life and life applies if the firearm is a machine gun or is equipped with a suppressor or a silencer.

924(c) (k) charges are very serious and become critically important in the defense of any federal crime or a 924(c) charge is indicted because again, that 5 year, 7 year, 10 year, 30 year, 25 year stacked mandatory minimum means that if you were to get 5 years on the sentence for the drug offense, that 5 years has to be served consecutive, which means you serve it first. You serve five years for the gun charge for the 924(c), and then you serve a second 5 year term on the drug charge. In essence, it adds a flat 5 year sentence on top of any other set she would get for the underlying felony. For all those reasons, 924(c) charges are an extremely important part of the analysis of any case where they are included as part of the indictment.

How Do State Gun Charges Differ From Federal Gun Charges?

Federal gun laws hinge on Congress’s authority to prosecute offenses impacting interstate commerce. Essentially, if a weapons offense falls under state law, it can also be subject to federal charges. This becomes contentious when examining direct and indirect connections.

For instance, a firearm sale within Michigan might invoke federal jurisdiction if the parts were transported across state lines. The federal claim is grounded in regulating interstate commerce involving the firearm components or even the interstate use of a cell phone to arrange the transaction.

Navigating these intricacies is crucial. Federal gun laws carry stiffer penalties, both in mandatory minimum and potential maximum sentences, compared to their state equivalents. Sentencing guidelines for federal weapons offenses are notably more extensive, underlining the importance of understanding these nuances.

To illustrate, compare Michigan’s state equivalent, “felony firearm,” which mandates a two-year stacked consecutive sentence for a first offense, with the federal 924(c) charge requiring a five-year term – that’s two and a half times lengthier.

Furthermore, federal penalties for offenses like possessing a machine gun or an illegal suppressor exceed those in state court. The decision to elevate a case from state to federal court involves numerous factors, underscoring the complexity of navigating these legal distinctions.

Some key factors that could escalate a case to federal court can include:

  • If the criminal investigation was conducted by federal agents, resulting in the arrest being made by federal agents.
  • If the firearm offense was related to a more extensive federal criminal investigation.
  • If the amount of firearms found in the course of a criminal investigation was particularly large, or if the extent of the criminality is on a larger scale as a whole.

Gun Control Programs

Beyond uniformly stringent sentencing, a few different programs are implemented in federal gun charge cases, with some stirring controversy, such as the initiative in Wayne County to rid the streets of firearms.

To manage the substantial volume of firearm possession cases, a program is in place where, during the initial arraignment, the prosecutor extends a plea offer. Two options are presented: accept a two-year state prison term, leading to the dismissal of all other charges, or decline. The decision window is brief—ranging from one week to a maximum of 21 days. If rejected, the local jurisdiction dismisses the case, forwarding it to the federal US Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution.

While these programs may appear altruistic, they pose challenges as defendants are afforded limited time to ponder plea offers. For most first-time offenders, this will be your first encounter with an attorney — a court-appointed lawyer who will be during this crucial decision phase. Unfortunately for most public defenders, convincing someone that accepting a two-year state prison term is in their best interest becomes a complex task.

Nonetheless, declining the offer elevates the stakes, moving the case to federal court where the mandatory minimum sentence increases from two to five years. Additionally, the sentencing guidelines for the underlying felony surge significantly.

At The Satawa Firm, we steadfastly support our clients. We reject the notion of legal extortion and we are dedicated to making sure that our clients have all the time and information they need to comprehend the decisions they’ll make about their future. We prioritize educating and preparing clients so that any decision to accept a plea and plead guilty is made voluntarily and knowingly, with their best interests at heart.

For more information on Facing Federal Gun Charges In Michigan, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 509-0056 today.

Mark Satawa

Call Today For Your Free Case Strategy Session
(248) 509-0056