It is painfully clear that New York State does a poor job in communicating to residents of neighboring states that merely because they legally own or possess their firearm – handgun, revolver, pistol – at home, when that same firearm is brought to New York it is a crime. Not just any crime, when the weapon is loaded with the ammunition and bullets capable of being fired from the gun (they need not be physically in it), the offense in New York is a class “C” violent felony. How do I know this as a criminal defense attorney in New York who represents clients arrested at LaGuardia or JFK Airport for New York Penal Law 265.03? I know this because I routinely am asked by defendants, “I was arrested for having a loaded gun in New York at the airport, but I legally own it and I followed the TSA guidelines. What did I do wrong and what is a violent felony and mandatory prison?”
In no particular order, my criminal defense law partner and I answer this questions or these statements in the same way. New York does not have reciprocity with other states that allows for legal ownership in one – Texas, Florida, California, Ohio, Colorado Georgia or any other jurisdiction – to equate to legal ownership in New York City. For practical purposes, in the eyes of the law you could just as well be carrying through the streets of New York on your hip, in a bag or under your shirt, a loaded firearm that you bought from a run down apartment for $200 cash in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx or Queens. That is correct, on its face the New York Penal Law does not distinguish between otherwise legal ownership outside New York and a stolen gun in New York. Both scenarios expose an accused to a mandatory minimum term of three and one half years in a New York State prison and maximum of fifteen years.
If there is any silver lining, and I use that term cautiously, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office that has jurisdiction over New York City’s airports at JFK and LaGuardia, are relatively reasonable when dealing with many of these arrests for Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree. After police officers with the Port Authority place you in handcuffs, confiscate your firearm, bring you to central booking and leave you in custody until you see a judge, prosecutors will examine the merits of your case in terms of a downward departure.
Before continuing, it is critical to understand what will happen next and how you can avail yourself of a potential offer. Simply, Queens prosecutors do not merely offer lesser offenses or non-criminal dispositions in each and every case. Don’t be naive. Without providing what our New York criminal lawyers and firearm defense attorneys have done for the clients we have represented for Port Authority Police arrests at JFK or LaGuardia, there are some base level questions. Did you follow TSA guidelines when attempting to check your firearm? Is it legally possessed in your home state? Do you have any criminal history and why do you deserve the benefit of the doubt?
As unique as each case involving Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon may be at a New York City airport, so is the person accused of the crime. Have the attorneys at Saland Law PC secured dismissals based on ACDs and violations of Disorderly Conduct for men and women arrested for PL 265.02? In almost each and every case we have done so. Does that mean Saland Law PC will do the same for all or any future clients? No, but we do have certain defenses, plans and key lines of attack that we have successfully used to challenge or mitigate cases. Once again and case in point, Saland Law PC secured a non-criminal resolution for client who was given a dose of reality when the client believed the client was following the law and check the firearm at the terminal to only find out the consequences of otherwise innocent actions. Fortunately, with effort and diligence from our attorneys, our client has no criminal record and only a horrific memory of the time spent in New York (that we cannot change).
Be smart about your travels in New York. Arm yourself with knowledge, not a firearm. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to be treated like a common criminal when you are a good and honorable person. If you are reading this too late and you or a family member is waiting to or has seen a judge, take the time to educate yourself , consult with your counsel and ascertain an approach that may only leave you with a battered ego instead of a indelible criminal record that will shadow you forever.
To read more about New York gun laws, including firearm crimes at New York City airports, follow the links above or go directly to the websites and blogs listed below. A search of this blog or New-York-Lawyers.org will provide enough information to provide as a foundation to secure legal counsel best equipped to represent you in your criminal case. Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors.