What You Need To Know About Possessing A Stolen Firearm

Illegal possession of stolen firearms is a felony in Louisiana that carries one to five years in prison. Keep in mind, the prosecutor must prove that you intentionally and knowingly possessed the stolen firearm. What if you meant to possess it but didn’t know it was stolen? That is the defense. If you bought it at a gun show and have the receipt, you may be able to prove you didn’t know it was stolen. But, if you say you bought it from a friend who bought it from a friend, you’re going to have a harder time proving that you thought the gun was clean.

Possessing A Stolen Firearm

Most States Have Strict Laws Around Firearms

Most states have strict laws surrounding firearms. Whether buying, selling, registering, or even having the ability to own and carry one are heavily regulated. In states that require a permit for owning a gun, there are severe penalties for possessing a gun without a valid permit. If the gun is stolen, there are even heavier penalties – especially if you have a prior criminal history. 

Individuals with a felony conviction face harsher consequences if caught possessing a stolen firearm, as felons automatically lose their rights to own any firearms upon conviction. 

A gun’s monetary value is a significant factor in many states in determining the severity of the charge. 

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Type Of Firearm Is An Important Consideration

The type of firearm is also important to consider. Additional charges can be tacked on to possession of a stolen firearm if that firearm is a handgun, which requires a certain permit in many states. 

Your state of residence is also an important factor – some states have harsher penalties than others. 

Let’s dive into the penalties for possession of a stolen firearm in the United States. 

What Happens if I’m Caught with a Stolen Firearm? 

To determine the penalty for possession of a stolen firearm, the following factors must be considered: 

  • Your state of residence
  • The type of firearm stolen
  • Your previous criminal record
  • The monetary value of the firearm

4 Things You Need To Know About Possessing A Stolen Firearm

Factor 1: What State Do You Live In?

Being in possession of a stolen firearm is a serious offense in all 50 states, though the classification of the crime (degree of felony or a misdemeanor) may differ. Some states – such as California and New Jersey – require every gun to be registered, regardless of the type of gun. 

In most states, having a stolen firearm in your possession is a third- or fourth-degree felony. California is one of the few exceptions; if the gun stolen is worth less than $950, then the crime is classified as a misdemeanor. 

Factor 2: What Kind Of Firearm Was Stolen?

No states have a separate category for handguns when it comes to stolen firearm possession. The charge remains the same. Handguns, however, have the strictest regulations surrounding them due to their small size, ease of transport, and overall percentage of gun violence deaths that handguns are responsible for. 

Because carrying a handgun requires a special permit in most states, you may face additional charges – including possessing and carrying a handgun without a permit. 

Factor 3: Do You Have a Previous Criminal History?

If you have already been convicted of a felony, you face harsher penalties for having a stolen gun in your possession. 

Felons cannot own or possess a firearm. This is a federal law that doesn’t differ depending on the state. 

Most states will charge you with a third-degree felony if you already have a felony record and are caught with a stolen firearm in your possession. This is regardless of whether the gun is stolen. 

Louisiana is one of the states that provides a way for convicted felons to regain their gun ownership rights, as long as their previous felony wasn’t a violent crime, they get their record expunged, and they wait a minimum of 10 years. 

Factor 4: How Much Is The Stolen Gun Worth?

In most states, the charges surrounding possession of stolen property don’t apply to possession of a stolen firearm. 

Firearms have specific laws surrounding them. Some states have possession of a firearm as an automatic felony – regardless of the gun’s monetary value. 

This is true for Texas, in which possession of a stolen firearm is an automatic “state jail felony,” which means the offender will be classified as a felon but serve no prison time. Individuals convicted with a state jail felony can be sentenced for between 6 months to 2 years in state jail and up to a $10,000 fine. 

In California, the charge of grand firearm theft is only true if the firearm’s value is more than $950. It is a misdemeanor to possess a stolen gun under this amount. 

What if I Come Into Possession Of A Stolen Gun By Accident?

Accidentally coming into possession of a stolen firearm is a common legal defense for this crime and can affect whether you are ultimately convicted for possession of a stolen firearm. 

Some situations in which a person can accidentally obtain a stolen gun are: 

  • Borrowing a friend’s hunting rifle that your friend had stolen from someone else, unbeknownst to you
  • Buying a gun in a state where guns don’t have to be registered, from a person you thought was a licensed dealer
    • Pawn shops are required by law to run a gun’s serial number to check if the gun is registered stolen before they can buy it. If the serial number comes back as stolen property, the pawn shop has to report it to the police. 

Possessing a Stolen Firearm Defense Lawyer in Louisiana

Having a stolen gun in your possession is a felony in most states, though the specifics of what level of felony (or possible misdemeanor, in the case of California) differ between states. 

Those who are convicted felons risk the heaviest consequences for possessing a stolen firearm, as federal law forbids them from owning or possessing any firearm for a minimum of 10 years following conviction. Hiring a criminal attorney for any type of gun charge you may be facing is crucial – especially if you already have a criminal record.

You should now better understand the topic: what you need to know about possessing a stolen firearm and we wish you all the best.


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DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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