Don’t count on the TSA or your airline – Delta, JetBlue, American, United – to confirm whether or not the firearm you traveled with to New York from Colorado, Arizona, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia or any other state in the Union is legal in New York. No official airline or TSA website will provide you that information and discuss the extent New York’s laws are in direct conflict with the Second Amendment or how your permit, license or registration in Texas, Maryland or California is not valid here. For that matter, the ticket agent, online booking website, the TSA or your airline will not explain that possessing the loaded firearm (loaded doesn’t require ammunition in the pistol or revolver) in New York without the proper permit is by default a class “C” violent felony punishable by a minimum term of three and one half years incarceration pursuant to Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Firearm (Penal Law 265.03). Certainly, you can follow the advice listed on the TSA website at your own peril. To some extent it is accurate. That is, wherever you may be flying to and from the regulations are the same. You must head to the ticket counter, have the unloaded firearm in a locked hard sided case, slap a sticker or a tag on that case, declare the firearm and ensure that no parts of the firearm are inadvertently taken with you as a carry-on onto the airplane. But that is where the TSA’s usefulness and value ends. Flying into JFK or LaGuardia (or for that matter any other airport) is one thing, but after checking the firearm at the ticket counter on your way home from one of these Queens County airports, you are going to be personally escorted to the “tombs” of Queens County Central Booking on your way to your arraignment on felony weapon charges at Queen County Criminal Court. A layover is one thing…but this is no what you expected.
Before addressing three recent cases where the New York criminal lawyers and firearm defense attorneys at Saland Law PC secured an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) and two Disorderly Conduct violations (non-criminal) for three respective clients arrested at JFK and LaGuardia Airports for possessing “loaded” firearms, it is important to first understand loaded firearm, gun and weapon crimes in New York. Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law 265.03, is a class “C” felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of three and one half years whether you are a member of a biker gang, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or leader of your local choir. As blunt as one can be if you possess it, it is loaded, and it is not licensed in New York, the handcuffs are getting slapped on and you will be missing your flight home. Do not forget a firearm in New York can be loaded as a matter of law even if the magazine and ammunition is not physically in the weapon.
Unfortunately for three recent Saland Law PC clients, each one of these individuals believed they were adhering to the law when they declared their firearm at a Queens airport only to quickly learn they were in violation. A former active member of the military, a holder of master’s degree working with under privileged youth, and a person who had past brushes with the law but moved beyond past indiscretions, each faced the same career, life and liberty altering scenario. Because each of them listened to the guidance the attorneys at Saland Law PC provided, obtained the materials we requested and gave our lawyers the time to present this information to prosecutors, in two of the cases the Chief of the bureau, each of these individuals secured a non-criminal resolution. One client is even on the way to a dismissal.
Without going into the details of these cases or the particular defense that resulted in the non-criminal dispositions, it is critical to gather and present mitigating information to prosecutors in an efficient manner. Do you have proof or legal ownership? Will the ATF report come back clean? What is your criminal history? How can we establish that you didn’t have other firearms that you sold or used in New York? Simply, when a prosecutor ask who you are, why should he or she treat you any different then if you possessed that firearm in your car or person when walking down the street? New York area District Attorney’s Offices take firearm cases more then seriously. Accountability – whether a felony conviction, misdemeanor conviction or incarceration – is often the part of any deal. It is incumbent upon the accused, and more specifically his or her counsel, to best identify the appropriate defense and convince, in this case, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office that a criminal record and jail serves no greater good. Ignorance of the law and good faith may not be a defense, but it it is imperative that prosecutors recognize you have no malicious intent.
While the former Manhattan prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC have prosecuted and defended countless firearm cases and successfully resolved significant numbers stemming from Queens County airports without a criminal record, each case is unique. Do your best to understand New York firearm crimes and laws, determine your strongest defense and equip yourself with the tools to walk away from a horrific experience without destroying your name or future.
To read more on New York gun, weapon and firearm crimes, as well as cases handled by Saland Law PC, follow any of the links or go directly to the websites and blogs listed here and below.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm handling weapon related crimes throughout New York City and many surrounding suburbs. Saland Law PC was founded by two New York criminal defense lawyers and former Assistant District Attorneys.