Despite having top training and experience in what is the most stressful of life situations and the respect of his friends, neighbors and nation as a veteran of the armed forces, nothing prepared a recent Saland Law PC client for the overwhelming fear and concern that resulted from an arrest at New York’s JFK Airport after he tried to check a lawfully owned firearm. Yes, our client followed the TSA’s guidelines prior to arriving at the airport to fly to Colorado where a new job awaited the following morning. Yes, our client made sure the firearm was stored away in a hard sided and locked cases consistent with the airline’s regulations. No, he was not remotely prepared for what would happen next.
A criminal and violent person our client was not, but instead a regular person, no different than you or me, exercising what he believed was his Second Amendment rights to possess a firearm licensed in another state. Unfortunately, despite his far from nefarious intentions, an arrest by the Port Authority Police Department and prosecution by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office was the last thing our client expected when his biggest concern to date on a flight was whether he should book an isle or window seat or have pretzels or chips with his Coke. Not a commentary on the state of firearm laws, the NRA, or Congress’ plan to allow conceal carry permits to cross state lines, this blog entry addresses how good people can unintentionally run afoul of the law and the efforts necessary to protect their good name, liberty and future.
As a New York firearm attorney defending and representing clients arrested at NYC area airports – JFK and LaGuardia – in Queens County for violating New York Penal Law 265.03 and New York Penal Law 265.01-b(1), Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon and Criminal Possession of a Firearm respectively, I have seen literally dozens of these offenses over the years. Although ever case is unique and distinct, other than on one occasion where our client had multiple firearms at the airport and a previous conviction for reckless use of the same, Saland Law PC has resolved these arrests for our clients without a criminal conviction. My response to these crimes, even with this collective success and as callous as it may seem, is get ready for a frightening ride. Fortunately, with a heavy dose of work, diligence and advocacy, these airport gun arrests can be resolved in a non-criminal manner.
Without addressing the statutory elements of the above two offenses, the layperson description of these crimes are as follows. You violate PL 265.03 when you unlawfully possess a firearm that is loaded outside your home or place of business without permit or license. Two critical things to recognize is that an out-of-state license is not valid in New York and, therefore, mere possession of an an out-of-state license will not protect you from prosecution. Further, New York law does not mandate that a firearm physically be loaded with ammunition to be loaded in the eyes of the law. The legal approach, much more liberal, is established when bullets are in your pocket, in the case or in an area that would allow the firearm to be readily loaded. What does all of this mean? Common sense and the law are not always the same while also leaning to the advantage of law enforcement in this particular arena. As a result, you, an accused, are left with one option. An arrest must be vigorously challenged because your exposure upon conviction is minimally three and one half years in prison with a ceiling of fifteen years.
While not as serious as the Class “C” violent felony of Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon, knowingly and unlawfully possessing that same revolver, pistol, or firearm without any ammunition is a Class “E” felony with a sentence of up to four years in prison. Four is certainly less than fifteen, but a felony conviction and a day in prison is as life altering as it is shattering.
Now that you have some context as to the nature of New York’s good intentioned, but sometimes misapplied laws, Saland Law PC worked hand and hand with our client to demonstrate to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office that while the Penal Law serves a tremendous purpose in keeping people safe, its application need not be indiscriminate. Simply, there is a human element. College educated, military veterans following the letter of the law as they believe should not be shackled with a criminal record nor, for that matter, even a violation. To the credit of the Queens County District Attorney, their reasoned and thoughtful review of the significant materials presented and willingness to listen to our position, concerns and mitigation, resulted in a disposition that all parties could live with.
After months of pushing back and seeking to have our client’s case drop from a felony, to a misdemeanor to a violation and ultimately a six month dismissal through and Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD), our client was allowed to move forward on the right path. Career and job preserved? Yes. Criminal record clean? Yes. A life experience our client will not soon forget? I think we all know the answer to that question.
To learn more about New York firearm crimes, weapon laws, the “Safe Act” and other offenses, as well as defenses to and case results involving firearm arrests at LaGuardia and JFK airports, review this blog as well as our website where you will found easily digestible and informative materials.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense law practice representing clients in the New York City, Hudson Valley and suburban New York area.