Massachusetts law imposes severe penalties for gun crimes, including mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses. This means that even if you’re a first-time offender arrested on a firearm charge, you could be sentenced to a minimum of several months in prison—and there’s nothing the judge can do about it.
Since conviction can lead to mandatory prison time and a permanent criminal record, acquittal or dismissal of the charges is your best chance of putting the incident behind you. Depending on your circumstances, there could be many different defense strategies that could help you avoid a guilty verdict.
Common Defenses to Gun Possession in Massachusetts
Under state law, it’s illegal to “knowingly possess, or knowingly have in your control in a vehicle, a loaded or unloaded firearm” unless you have a license to carry a gun. However, it will be difficult to get a conviction if the judge or jury has reason to doubt that the weapon was in your control or that you even knew the firearm existed. For this reason, your defense attorney should know how to present evidence in your favor while also casting doubt on the prosecution’s arguments.
A Massachusetts gun crimes attorney can help prove to a jury that:
- You had no knowledge of the firearm. If your fingerprints aren’t present on the gun and many people had access to the place where the gun was found, you may be able to show that you were unaware of the presence of a weapon. This may apply in cases where the weapon was hidden somewhere you were unlikely to see it, a weapon was found in your vehicle after you recently lent your car to a friend, or someone planted their gun on you to avoid arrest.
- You knew about the gun but thought it was harmless. Many people have knowingly had “replicas” of firearms and other weapons in their homes only to discover that these items are all too real. You could argue that you assumed the handgun, machine gun, or sawed-off shotgun you were holding was fake, non-working, or not loaded.
- You were aware of the gun but thought it was legally owned. This defense may be available if there were administrative delays in licensing your firearm, you live with someone who failed to obtain a gun license, if you were near your property with a licensed gun, or had reason to believe that the weapon was securely locked in a case or safe in your home or business.
Motions to Suppress Evidence in a Weapons Charge Defense
Sometimes evidence showing that a defendant knew of the presence of the gun cannot be overcome. However, any evidence against you obtained illegally cannot be used in court. To challenge evidence taken in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights, your attorney may make several motions based on the actions of police during and after your arrest.
For example, your lawyer may make a motion to suppress evidence because:
- The police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you. Police officers don't have the automatic right to stop any citizen on the street and conduct a search. The law requires police officers to have a legal reason for suspecting that they are carrying a weapon to perform a search.
- The police did not have a reason to detain you. Once you have been stopped, you have the right to know the reason and should be released if you can satisfy simple inquiries. Evidence collected after giving reasonable answers might be inadmissible if police continued to detain you without cause.
- The police did not have cause to frisk you. A police officer can only conduct a pat-down or frisk if there is a credible threat to the officer's safety.
- It was obtained through an unreliable tip. Police may claim that their basis for suspecting firearm possession was based on a tip from a third party. This may not be enough to warrant a search if the third party cannot be located or the details of the information are too general (such as “my neighbor” or “the man in the blue car”). An attorney can also challenge the reliability of a 911 call used to justify a search and seizure.
Ultimately, the best defense strategy is the one that takes the specific circumstances of your case into account. At Nate Amendola Defense, we regularly help clients overcome gun charges and resolve their cases with the least possible disturbance to their lives. Contact us today to set up a consultation and find out what we can do for you.