Most Criminal Attorneys in Baltimore County Maryland are familiar with the so call “gun range cases” that have been charged in Balitmore County for the last several years. These cases are viewed as controversial by many, including the writer, as they tend to look more an effort to build gun prosecution statistics than legitimate efforts by the police to protect the community from gun weilding convicted criminals. As I have described in the past, these are very serious offenses that can in certain circumstances subject the person charged to minimum mandatory 5 year prison terms.
This past week I was able to successfully resolve two serparate matters involving husband and wife co-defendants, one in which the duo were charged in two separate jurisdictions. The facts of the two cases were nearly identical:
Detectives of the Baltimore County Police Firearms Unit have for several years been aggressively monitoring the patrons of both the Continental Arms Range in Timonium and the Freestate Range in Middle River. For those who are unfamiliar with how gun ranges operate, when a patron enters a range and requests to shoot at the facility, they are required to provide a driver’s license and to fill out a questionnaire regarding the person’s experience with firearms and the person’s criminal history, if any.
Specifically the form asks if the person has ever been convicted of any crime in Maryland or any other State that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 2 years or more. Unfortunately, many people who have been convicted of what most view as minor, non-violent offenses fall into this category, even if they are not aware that they do. By way of example, I represented an individual a number of years ago who had been convicted of telephone misuse. He was only 21 years old at the time. He went to court without a lawyer and the judge told him to pay the court costs and to stop calling his ex-girlfriend which he did. He never gave it another thought until 15 years later when he found out that he was a prohibited person because telephone misuse has a maximum penalty of three years in prison. Several other non-violent offenses can have maximum penalties of more than 2 years depending upon the way in which they are charged including malicious destruction of property, theft and the writing of a bad check. Most people charged with these offenses don’t go to jail at all and many never have any idea that the conviction of such an offense results in a lifelong loss of their constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment. Even if they do have some idea that they are a prohibited person as a result of their conviction, many people associate that idea of being prohibited with “ownership”and not simply with shooting a someone else’s weapon at a gun range which is in fact illegal.
In both of the cases that I recently handled the married couple went to the range and fired weapons that the wives, who were not, prohibited persons, purchased in their names. The police then ran their records along with their husbands and the next thing they knew the police were banging on their doors at 5am to serve a search warrant. In each of these cases, not only were the husbands charged with being prohibited persons in possession of a regulated firearm, both wives were charged with making a “straw purchase” or, in other words, purchasing a weapon for a prohibited person.
Unfortunately, for one of the couples, they live in Harford County so they got charged in both jurisdictions. To further complicate matters, in that particular case, the husband was eligible for a 5 year minimum mandatory sentence. Ultimately we were successful in getting the charges dismissed entirely against the wife in one case and keeping all three of the other defendants out of prison entirely, including the husband facing the 5 year mandatory sentence. But it was by no means a sure thing that this would be the result.
Anyone who has ever been charged with a criminal offense would be wise to look carefully into what exactly occurred in that case no matter how long ago it occurred to ensure that they are not prohibited from possessing a firearm because of it. Anyone who is charged with any handgun offense including ones resulting from these gun range investigations, should immediately retain an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney.