While Missouri has fairly non-restrictive gun laws, the unlawful possession or use of a firearm carries some very stiff penalties. If the police charge you with a gun crime, you could face prison time, fines, loss of your ability to own or carry a gun in the future, and a criminal history that can hinder employment or educational opportunities.
You need to act quickly if you’ve been arrested for unlawful use of a firearm or armed criminal action. Contact Kirsch & Kirsch, Attorneys at Law to discuss your case. While Missouri law is fairly lenient regarding law-abiding citizens, the courts are particularly harsh on unlawful possession. Call today to discuss your case.
Missouri Gun Laws
It’s helpful to understand Missouri gun laws to avoid future legal trouble and the charges you’re facing. Missouri is an open carry state, and you do not need to have a concealed weapons permit to carry a hidden gun on your person. Additionally, you don’t need a permit to buy or own a gun. A municipality may pass ordinances against open carry, but there are circumstances and places where you cannot possess a firearm, regardless of local laws.
You cannot, for instance, carry a gun into a police station, correctional facility, school grounds, courthouse, etc.
Unlawful Possession of a Firearm
A convicted felon cannot possess a firearm in the state of Missouri, nor can a fugitive from justice. This is a class D felony under Missouri criminal law.
Unlawful Discharging of Firearms
It’s a violation of Missouri law to discharge a firearm into a house, train, bus, or other vehicles; within 100 yards of a school, church, or courthouse; from a vehicle; or at a mark or sign along a highway.
Weapons Offenses Involving Controlled Substances
You cannot possess a firearm while you are intoxicated or while in possession of illicit controlled substances.
What to Do If You’re Facing Gun Charges
Because Missouri has lenient firearm laws in general, many Missouri residents don’t realize the serious trouble that they can get into over weapons offenses. If you are charged with a gun crime, you should contact an attorney the first chance you’re able to. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid in the meantime.
Don’t Try to Talk Your Way Out of an Arrest
You have the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Unfortunately, many people fail to exercise this right to their own detriment. While you may believe that you can explain your way out of a situation, the more likely result is that the police will use something that you said as evidence against you.
This is particularly important if you’ve committed other crimes related to the unlawful use of your gun. In most cases, it’s better not to speak and let a criminal defense lawyer talk on your behalf.
Don’t Become Belligerent or Resist Arrest
If you’re illegally in possession of a gun, you may be charged with a felony, but if you resist arrest while armed, you could face multiple felony counts.
How a Gun Charge Lawyer Can Help You
Unfortunately, many people who have been charged with the unlawful use of a weapon decide to forgo hiring a professional criminal defense lawyer to represent them. They either believe that the penalties are not that serious, or they place their confidence in the overburdened public defenders’ office. In either case, it’s a mistake.
Felony crimes in Missouri carry the potential of imprisonment, and a public defender does not have the time or resources to build an effective defense for your case. In many cases, they enter plea negotiations before they can even fully review the evidence against you.
Here’s what a professional criminal law firm can do for you:
- Review the probable cause against you
- Subpoena and depose the arresting officer and other witnesses
- Review all discovery evidence that the prosecution has against you
- If someone was injured, review the medical records, and if necessary, hire expert witnesses to dispute incorrect information
- File motions to suppress that could positively impact your defense
- Negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor if that’s in your best interests
- Defend you in a Missouri court of law
The attorneys at Kirsch & Kirsch manage their own caseloads. If they take you on as a client, they have the time and resources available to develop a professional defense.
Effective Defense Strategies for Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Other Charges
There are no one-size-fits-all defense strategies when it comes to firearms charges in Missouri. However, some defense strategies are effective in multiple situations. Here are some of the defenses that a diligent criminal defense attorney might use.
Missouri police officers must have a valid reason to stop you, or any evidence they seize, including your firearm, is inadmissible. Valid reasons for stops include:
- The police observed you commit a traffic violation.
- You match the description of someone involved in a crime.
- The police stopped you at a legally sanctioned checkpoint.
- They have a warrant for your arrest.
- The police received an anonymous tip that you were behaving suspiciously or had committed a crime.
The police cannot search your person or property without reason. If they fail to articulate that reason, the search may be considered invalid. Here are some valid reasons for a search:
- The police have a search warrant.
- The police have arrested you and are searching you and your immediate area for weapons or evidence.
- The police conducted a traffic stop and believe that you have a weapon on you. They can secure weapons for their safety.
- The police received an anonymous tip that you were armed and believed that you had the weapon illegally.
- You consent to a search.
- The weapon is in plain view.
- The police are searching your vehicle prior to towing it.
There are many times when the police overstep their authority and search a person or property illegally. If this occurs, they may invalidate their entire case.
Mistaken Identity – Bad Show-Up
The police can temporarily detain you if you match the description of someone involved in a crime. If they have a witness, they can bring them to your location for confirmation. However, witnesses are notoriously unreliable, and police officers frequently make invalid arrests based on bad show-ups.
If a witness ID is part of the probable cause against you, our attorneys will depose that witness to see if there is any uncertainty in their identification. This could lead to a dismissal or a weakening of the prosecutorial case.
It’s difficult to charge a defendant with unlawful use of a weapon if the police can’t find the weapon. They may be relying on eyewitness testimony that you had a weapon in your possession prior to police contact. However, if they don’t find you in possession of the weapon or they can’t connect you to a weapon you found, it will be difficult for them to win their case in front of a jury.
Criminal Defense Lawyers in Jefferson City, MO
Kirsch & Kirsch, Attorneys at Law is a Jefferson City law firm with an impressive track record. If you’ve been charged with unlawful possession or use of a weapon, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Call today for immediate and effective representation.