Gun crimes in Middlesex County are crimes that involve gun possession and use. While protecting the Second Amendment’s right of citizens to bear arms, Massachusetts law restricts the ownership, use, and carriage of firearms. A violation of these provisions can result in gun crime charges. Some of the most common gun crimes in Middlesex County include:
- Illegal carrying of firearms: This crime involves the intentional possession of a loaded or unloaded firearm without the required license. A person may also be guilty of this crime if they carry a licensed firearm outside of their place of business or home without the license to do so. Possession of illegal weapons like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns also falls within this crime category. The penalty for illegal possession of a firearm in Middlesex County is imprisonment in state prison for a minimum of 2½ years but not more than 5 years or for 18 months to 2½ years in a jail or house of correction. The penalty for possession of machine guns or sawed-off shotguns is 18 months to life imprisonment in the state prison.
- Possession of an unlicensed firearm at home or work: The intentional possession of a firearm, shotgun, or rifle in a residence or workplace without a license or permit is illegal under Massachusetts law. The penalty for this crime is up to 2 years of imprisonment in a jail or house of correction or a maximum fine of $500.
- Possession of a rifle or shotgun on a public way: under Massachusetts law it is illegal to carry a rifle or shotgun on a public way. A public way is a sidewalk, street, or other public ground. If the gun is loaded, the penalty upon conviction is a maximum of 2 years imprisonment in the house of correction or a fine of between $500 and $5,000 or both such fine and imprisonment. On the other hand, if the firearm is unloaded, the penalty reduces to a fine of between $100 and $1,000. However, if the unloaded gun is a large capacity shotgun or rifle accompanied with a partially or fully loaded large capacity loader, the penalty becomes 1 to 10 years imprisonment in state prison or a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000, or both such imprisonment and fine.
- Possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony: Possessing a firearm while committing or attempting to commit a felony attracts a separate felony charge. That separate felony charge is punishable by at least 5 years in state prison. If the firearm is a large-capacity shotgun or rifle, the minimum sentence increases to 10 years in state prison.
- Carrying a firearm while under the influence: Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal for a person to carry a loaded gun while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is irrelevant that such a person has a license to carry a firearm. The penalty for this crime is up to 2½ years imprisonment in the house of correction or a maximum fine of $5,000 or both such fine and imprisonment.
- Illegal discharging of weapons: It is illegal in Middlesex County to discharge a gun within 500 feet of a dwelling without the permission of the owner or legal occupant. The penalty for doing so is a fine of between $50 to $100 or imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for up to 3 months.
How many Gun Crimes are Committed with a Legally Obtained Firearm in Middlesex County?
The Massachusetts Bill of Rights gives citizens the right to legally own firearms. The purpose of this grant is to enable responsible citizens to defend themselves and their properties. People, however, may abuse this right and use their legally obtained firearms to commit crimes. In Middlesex County, guns were used to commit crimes a total of 211 times in 2020. These crimes included:
- 8 homicides
- 3 sexual assaults
- 200 aggravated assaults
Who Can Possess a Gun in Middlesex County?
Generally, no person under the age of 14 years of age may possess a gun in Middlesex County. Minors that are between the ages of 15 and 17 may possess a gun under certain circumstances. However, they are prohibited by law from purchasing guns or ammunition. Similarly, a person under the age of 21 years cannot buy a handgun, large-capacity weapon, or large-capacity feeding device.
People between 14 and 18 years of age who want to possess a gun may apply for a Firearm Identification Card (FID) after providing proof of a parent’s or guardian’s consent to make the application. Although a 14-year-old may apply for an FID, they cannot be issued the card until they reach the age of 15.
Massachusetts law also restricts people that have been convicted of the following crimes from possessing guns in Middlesex County:
- A felony
- Domestic violence
- A violent crime
- A misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for more than two years
- Any crime that involves the illegal possession, use, ownership, purchase, sale, receipt, transfer, lease, rental, or transportation of firearm or ammunition
- Any crime that involves the violation of any law regulating the sale, possession, or use of controlled substances
Other people who are prohibited from possessing guns in Middlesex County are:
- Those who are committed or have been committed to an institution or hospital for mental illness, alcohol, or substance abuse
- Fugitives from justice
- People who are currently or were previously under the appointment of a conservator or guardian because they lacked the mental capacity to contract or manage their affairs
- Aliens who do not have lawful permanent residency
- Those who are subject to orders for surrender or suspension of firearms as a result of domestic abuse or protection orders
- Anyone who has renounced their United States citizenship
- Those who were dishonorably discharged from the United States armed forces
- Anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant in any state or federal jurisdiction
Any person who wishes to possess a gun in Middlesex County must have successfully completed a Basic Hunter Education Course or a Massachusetts Certified Firearms Safety Course. They must also obtain one of the following licenses:
- License to Carry (LTC): This permits the possession, purchase, carriage, and transportation of all large and non-large-capacity handguns, shotguns, rifles, feeding devices, and ammunition. The LTC also permits the carrying of concealed handguns, whether loaded or unloaded. An applicant applying for an LTC for the first time must, in accordance with the law, be at least 21 years of age to obtain a permit. An LTC is valid for 6 years and costs $100.
- Firearms Identification Card (FID): This permits the possession, purchase, and transportation of non-large-capacity rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. First-time FID applicants must be at least 18 years old. People who are between the ages of 14 and 17 may also apply for an FID with parental consent.
Interested parties may obtain any of the above licenses from a local police department.
What if my Gun is Stolen and Used in a Crime in Middlesex County?
In Middlesex County, a gun owner is not criminally liable for a crime simply because a gun that belonged to them was used in a crime. For a person to be criminally liable for any crime, they must have some culpability in the offense committed.
Massachusetts law requires Middlesex County gun owners to report the theft, loss, or recovery of a gun to the licensing authority in the city or town of residence and the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. The penalty for failing to do so is either a suspension or permanent revocation of the person’s FID or license to carry firearms or both. The law does not provide any repercussions for gun owners whose stolen guns were used in a crime even if they failed to report that the gun was stolen.
How Often is a Gun Used to Stop a Crime in Middlesex County?
Guns may be useful as a tool for self-defense and to stop crime. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 60,000 to 2.5 million Americans use their guns defensively each year.
Consequences for Immigrants with Gun Crime Convictions
Under United States law, an immigrant who is convicted of a gun crime in the country may be deported. Additionally, if the gun crime is also considered a Crime Involving moral turpitude, an immigrant may be deemed inadmissible to the United States. If that occurs, the immigrant in question will not be able to enter the country.
Middlesex County Weapons and Firearms Violation Attorneys
Anyone accused of a firearm violation in Middlesex County should contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in defending similar cases because criminal charges related to the use and possession of weapons can attract harsh penalties on conviction. Nonetheless, there are various potential defenses that are available to assist the accused. A Middlesex County weapons and firearms violation attorney can determine the best defense to use based on the facts.
Some firearm charges in Middlesex County rest on illegal search and seizure by law enforcement. A weapons and firearms violation attorney can investigate the circumstances that led to an arrest and determine whether the police upheld the accused's constitutional rights.
An experienced attorney may also put the legal definition of a firearm into question. They may partner with ballistics experts to determine if the weapon in question meets the legal definition of a firearm.
These technicalities may be enough to result in the acquittal of the accused or at the very least mitigate the possible penalties.
Gun Charge Legal Defense in Middlesex County
After analyzing the facts of a case, a skilled firearms violation attorney begins to build an appropriate defense. Some of the legal defenses that an attorney may use to beat a gun charge in Middlesex include:
- Lack of possession: In a firearm possession case, the prosecution must prove that the accused possessed an alleged firearm. The prosecution must establish that the accused had the ability to exercise dominion and control over the firearm. In a situation where a gun is found in a car with several passengers, the defense may argue that the accused did not know the gun was in the vehicle and that it belonged to someone else.
- Motions to suppress evidence: A motion to suppress can provide a good defense in cases of possession of a firearm. This motion may apply when the firearm was seized during an unlawful search. If the motion is successful, the evidence cannot be used against the accused. This may lead to a dismissal of the case.
- Self-Defense: A defense attorney may argue that the accused possessed the firearm at a time when they needed to defend themselves. This defense asserts that the accused needed the gun to remain unharmed. To prove this, the attorney may present evidence that up until the moment of self-defense, the accused did not possess the firearm in question.
- Alibi: In using this defense, the accused asserts that they were someplace else at the time of the alleged incident involving a firearm.
- Possession of a permit: The accused contends that they had the required permit to possess or transport a firearm in Massachusetts.
Gun Enhancement Defenses
In Middlesex County, a sentence for a gun charge may be enhanced if the gun was used or carried during the commission of a crime. In such cases, a defendant convicted of a felony while armed with a gun will receive a gun enhancement sentence in addition to the standard penalty of their crime.
The punishments for a gun enhancement charge are quite severe. However, there are some legal defenses available to beat such charges. Some of them include:
- Self-defense or defense of another: A person is allowed to use reasonable force to stop or prevent harm if they believe themselves or another to be in the immediate danger of being injured or killed. If the defense can successfully prove that the accused acted in self-defense, the gun enhancement charges may be completely dismissed.
- Innocence: Another defense to a gun enhancement charge is that the accused did not commit the underlying offense. If the prosecution fails to prove that the accused is guilty of committing the underlying crime, the enhancement cannot apply.
- Illegal search and seizure: If the firearm was found during an illegal search, the evidence may be thrown out.