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Possession of Handguns and Other Weapons by Convicted Narcotics Felons

Maryland Criminal Attorney Baltimore Criminal Attorney Most people are aware that in Maryland a person who has been convicted of a violent crime or a felony may not possess handguns. People seem to be less aware of restrictions involving other weapons such as rifles, shotguns, assault weapons and antique firearms. I have blogged about this in the past and this blog is really intended to discuss possession of other weapons but I think an overview of the law on handgun possession will be helpful to the reader.

First of all, what exactly is the definition of a handgun under Maryland Law? One would think that this would be a relatively straightforward and easy question to answer. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are two separate definitions under two of the three sections of the Maryalnd Code that criminalize handgun and firearm possession. Under Public Safety 5-101(n) a handgun is defined as a firearm with a barrel less than 16 inches. Under this section a handgun includes signal, starter and blank pistols. Under Criminal Law Section 4-201(c) a handgun is defined as a pistol revolver or other firearm capable of being concealed on the person. Under this definition a handgun includes short-barrelled rifles which is defined as a firearm having a barrel less than 16 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches; and shotguns with a barrel less than 18 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches. Under this definition a standard rifle, shotgun or any antique firearm is not deemed to be a handgun. Presumably this definition would also include starter pistols since they are included in the definition of a firearm under the Public Safety Article definition, but would not include signal or blank pistols as they are not included in that definition. Very confusing to say the least.

The next question is who is disqualified under Maryland Law from possessing firearms and handguns. Under Maryland law there are basically two classes of citizens who are disqualified from owning or possessing handguns and subject to criminal penalties if they are convicted of being in possession of a firearm that is classified as a handgun. The first classification deals with persons who have been convicted of either of a crime of violence or a felony drug charge. The following offenses are classified as crimes of violence in Maryland: Abduction, Arson in the First Degree, Assault in the First of Second Degree, Burglary in the First, Second or Third Degree, Carjacking and Armed Carjacking, Escape in the First Degree, Kidnapping, Voluntary Manslaughter, Murder, Rape in the First or Second Degree, Robbery, Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon, Sexual Offense in the First, Second or Third Degree, Attempts to commit any of these crimes and Assault with the Intent to Commit any of these crimes.

A person who is convicted of being in possession of a handgun having been previously convicted of any of these crimes or any felony drug or controlled dangerous substance offense is guilty of a felony and is subject to a mandatory penalty of five years incarceration. That sentence may not be suspended and the person is not eligible for parole. The second classification of persons who are prohibited from possessing handguns involves persons who have been convicted of a disqualifying crime which is defined as any felony or any crime carrying a statutory penalty of more than 2 years. Anyone convicted of possession of a handgun under this section is subject to a penalty of five years with the possibility of parole, a fine of $10,000 or both
Finally there is one classification of persons under Maryland Law who may not possess any firearms, handguns, assault weapons or even standard shotguns and rifles. These persons are persons who have been convicted of a felony narcotics crime such as possession with the intent to distribute narcotics or distribution of narcotics. Under the narcotics section of the Criminal Law Article 5-622 a person who has been convicted a felony drug crime or a conspiracy to commit a felony drug crime under Maryland Law or the laws of any of the other states may not possess any firearm, even long-barrelled rifles or shotguns. Any person who is convicted under this statute faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison or a fine of up to $1000 or both.