You are waiting in line at JFK or LaGuardia to check your bags and return home to Texas, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia or any other state in the Union. Thinking nothing of it, you declare your firearm to the Delta, JetBlue, American or other airline agent. Not alarmed in the slightest, the agent tells you to wait…and you do just that. Shortly thereafter, police officers with the Port Authority Police Department approach you. Now becoming slightly more alarmed, if you are reading this blog entry you know exactly what happens next.
Hard sided case? Check. Firearm broken down and locked inside? Check. Ammunition separated from the firearm? Check. Have a permit or license for the firearm in your home state or it is properly registered in that state? Check. Followed the TSA and airline guidelines for transporting your firearm? Check again. Why then did you get arrested, miss your flight, get hauled into Queens County Criminal Court, wait for up to 24 hours and get charged with one of two firearm felonies in New York? In the event the gun was loaded as a matter of law (meaning you had the ammunition with the firearm even if not physically inside it), you now are staring down the barrel of a class “C” violent felony with a mandatory minimum of three and one half years in prison. This crime, New York Penal Law 265.03, Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon, makes it a crime to possess a loaded firearm outside your home and place of business if it is not licensed to be in your possession in the location you possessed it. In other words, licensure in Alabama or Oregon is of no value in New York City or New York State.
In the event you were fortunate enough, that being a relative term, to merely possess the firearm without any ammunition for the pistol, revolver or gun, then you now know you can avoid prosecution on a “C” violent felony, but land squarely in the lap of the class “E” felony of Criminal Possession of a Firearm, New York Penal Law 265.01-(b)(1).
Unfortunately for a recent Crotty Saland PC client, the above scenario played out where all the steps were taken to comply with the airlines and TSA, but despite our client’s honest and best efforts our client was charged with PL 265.03 after attempting to check a firearm before returning home to California where our client was, and still remains, a licensed firearm owner.
In an emotionally draining battle from dealing with an arrest and incarceration in Central Booking to returning to court and relying on our representation in good faith that we could “fix” what went wrong to minimize the impact on our client’s career and livelihood working with children, our client was ultimately vindicated and exonerated. While our client can thank our advocacy in vast experience representing clients checking firearms they legally believe they are entitled to possesses at New York City airports, a “thank you” is also necessary for hard working and compassionate prosecutors in Queens County who can differentiate between an honest mistake in violation of the New York Penal Law and one that is ill willed and nefarious.
After what likely felt like an epic journey punctuated with bouts of anxiety despite our best efforts to reassure our client and remain communicative, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office moved for an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. The case, in six months, will not only be sealed, but dismissed. No finding or admission of guilt. No fines, probation or incarceration. Instead, as reflected in the ACD statute, the arrest as a matter of law will be nullified.
To learn more about any degree of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in New York as well as those specifically at JFK Airport and LaGuardia Airport in Queens County, follow the links here or contact one of our criminal lawyers directly.
Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense law firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors representing clients in firearm related offenses throughout the New York City area.