Under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, Americans famously have the right to bear arms. However, that doesn’t mean that the right is unqualified. Both the state and federal government can and do put limits on your constitutional right to own a firearm.
Connecticut has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, many of which were enacted in the wake of the devastating Sandy Hook school shooting. In Connecticut, potential gun owners are subject to universal background checks as well as restrictions on the type of weapons that an individual can own. If you violate one of these laws – or a related federal law – then you could be charged with a crime and be sentenced to jail or prison.
If you have been charged with a gun crime in Connecticut, the experienced Waterbury gun crimes lawyers of the Sills Law Firm are here for you. We have more than 20 years of combined experience advocating for people charged with weapons offenses and other criminal charges. Reach out to our law offices today to schedule a free consultation with a seasoned Connecticut criminal defense attorney.
Gun Laws in Connecticut
In 2012, Connecticut experienced one of the most deadly school shootings in American history at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In response, the state enacted some of the most strict gun laws in the country. Among other things, Connecticut law:
- Requires background checks for handgun purchases and/or a permit to purchase a handgun
- Requires any person who wants to carry a concealed firearm in public to obtain a permit
- Requires all firearms to be stored locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition in some circumstances
- Allows law enforcement and family members to petition to prevent a person in crisis from accessing guns (extreme risk or red flag law)
- Prohibits the purchase of assault-style weapons, bump stocks, and high-capacity magazines
- Regulates ghost gun parts so that they cannot be sold without a background check and the presence of serial numbers on the parts themselves
- Prohibits the open carry of firearms
- Prohibits the possession of firearms by people who are subject to restraining orders, those with felony convictions, those with convictions for hate crimes, domestic violence, and violent offenses, and those who have been involuntarily committed or found to be a danger to themselves or others
Connecticut also has a minimum age to purchase handguns (21+) and shotguns (18+).
The Special Licensing and Firearms Unit (SLFU) of the Connecticut State Police regulates all retail and private handgun transfers within the state. To purchase a handgun in Connecticut, you must be a resident, have a valid permit or eligibility certificate, or be a licensed firearms dealer or sworn police officer. To purchase a long gun (rifle), you must have a valid eligibility certificate, a carry permit, or a valid permit to sell such a weapon. Any violation of these laws could result in criminal charges.
Connecticut Gun Crimes
If you live in Connecticut, then you are subject to both state and federal gun regulations. As detailed above, Connecticut state gun laws are far more restrictive than federal laws. However, it is important to understand that depending on the situation, you could face federal and/or state gun charges.
Common weapons crimes charges include:
- Carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit
- Intentional, negligent, or careless discharge of a firearm
- Possession of a bump stock, assault weapon, or high-capacity magazine
- Carrying a loaded firearm while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- Possession of a weapon while committing a serious felony (such as burglary or robbery)
- Unlawful criminal possession of a firearm (which may be unlawful due to a prior felony conviction, conviction of a serious or violent crime, or a domestic violence restraining order against them. It is unlawful for anyone to possess a firearm if they have been found not guilty because of insanity within the past 20 years, if they have been a patient in a psychiatric hospital within the past 6 months, or if they are subject to a firearms seizure order)
A violation of any of these laws could result in a felony charge. In Connecticut, felonies are more serious offenses and are punishable by 1 year or greater in state prison.
The exact sentence for a gun crime conviction will depend on the specific offense. For example, unlawful possession of a firearm in a Class C felony is punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If you do not properly secure your firearms and a minor obtains and uses a gun, then you could be charged with criminal negligent storage of a firearm – a Class D felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
Importantly, if you violate another law while also committing a weapons offense, you will likely be charged with two separate offenses. This could significantly increase your exposure to a lengthy prison sentence and steep fines.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Connecticut’s gun laws can be confusing. It can be all too easy for a person to inadvertently violate one of the state’s many regulations surrounding guns. People who believe that they have a legal right to possess, receive, or sell a firearm can also be charged with a crime if they run afoul of these laws.
Most Connecticut gun offenses are felonies, which are the most serious type of criminal offense. In addition to spending time in state prison (not county jail), you could face several collateral consequences. You may lose your professional license, have difficulty getting a job, and even lose your right to bear arms in the future (in Connecticut or another state).
There are many possible defenses to a weapons charge. An experienced Waterbury criminal lawyer may argue that the police violated your constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures when they stopped you, searched you or your home, or took (seized) your possessions. If successful, a motion to suppress illegally seized evidence could result in a dismissal of charges.
In addition to legal defenses, your Waterbury gun crimes attorney could develop a factual argument to defend you against the charges. Prosecutors have the burden of proving each element of a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt – such that you possessed a gun when you were not permitted to do so.
If you are charged with a gun crime, you will – at a minimum – face jail time and fines. It is vitally important that you consult with a lawyer as soon as possible, ideally before talking to the police or giving a statement. Your attorney will protect your rights and advocate for your best interests.
In some cases, your lawyer may be able to work out a favorable plea deal. This may include entry into a diversionary program, Accelerated Rehabilitation. This program is available for first-time offenders who are charged with non-serious offenses (anything below a Class A or B felony). If you complete the program, then the charges against you may be dismissed entirely.
Facing Gun Charges? Give Us a Call.
A gun-related offense should always be taken seriously. If you are convicted, you could be sentenced to prison time and steep fines, along with collateral consequences. A Waterbury gun lawyer will analyze your case and put together the strongest possible defense to protect your rights and your future.
At the Sills Law Firm, we provide top-notch legal representation to clients who have been charged with both state and federal criminal charges. Our legal team will fight for you, and stand by your side throughout the process. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a Waterbury gun crimes lawyer, give our law offices a call at 866-971-2913 or fill out our online contact form.