Federal and State Machine Gun and Automatic Firearm Offenses

A tough, experienced automatic firearm defense attorney must stand up and successfully fight to protect and defend a client on these charges.

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Anyone facing state or federal firearms charges is looking at an uphill battle to get justice and fair treatment in court.

Because the government is so aggressive with its prosecution of firearms charges, particularly in cases with automatic weapons, you will want complete information before making any important decisions regarding your representation or what to do in your case. Suppose you face an accusation or the government has seized your firearms. In that case, you will want to immediately retain a defense attorney experienced with defending automatic firearm charges to stop or limit potential charges.

What is a machine gun? How can an automatic firearm defense attorney help?

A machine gun is a gun that can fire a continuous stream of bullets with one pull of the trigger. If you keep the trigger pulled, the rifle will continue to shoot until the bullets run out. Although one usually thinks of machine guns as rifles, machine pistols exist, and the same rules apply. Parts kits that contain full-auto parts for installation into a semi-auto gun to make it fully auto are also legally considered a “machine gun.” Generally, machine guns are for combat in a military setting, and there are tight restrictions on a civilian being able to possess one. A person may not manufacture, sell, offer for sale, or possess a machine gun unless they have a federal license.  

Michigan’s Penalty for Possession of a Machine Gun

The penalty for unlicensed possession or sale of a machine gun is a potential five (5) years in prison, (5) years of probation and a $2,500.00 fine.

Is there any way someone can legally own, buy, or sell a machine gun?

Machine guns are not “banned” or “prohibited” under federal law; however, automatic firearms require a license. The Michigan Attorney General issued an official Opinion on December 27, 2005. The AG stated that Michigan would respect a federal government’s permit to own a machine gun through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). As a result, Michigan would find that a person with a registered machine gun would be within the law.

If registered before May 19, 1986, you can own an automatic firearm, and you can buy such a gun from a person who had it before May 19, 1986, if you get a license from the ATF and buy it from that person. The value of machine guns in the United States increases over time due to supply and demand. The cost of a machine gun may be the biggest hurdle to anyone who wants one, with the average price today being around $10,000.00. Automatic firearms made after that date can only be possessed as “sales samples” by federal firearm dealers and sold only to governmental agencies.

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Federal Law Regarding Automatic Firearms and Guns

Federal gun laws apply to Michigan residents. Federal penalties are generally more significant than Michigan penalties. The federal laws are detailed, complicated, and too lengthy to list here. Penalties for misdemeanors and felony firearms crimes can range from 1 to 20 years in prison, and up to a $500,000.00 fine, based on the seriousness of the offense. A person may not even possess the parts to convert a semi-auto firearm into a full-auto firearm. Converting a semi-automatic firearm into a full-auto is a 20-year federal felony and a potential $250,000.00 fine. A defense attorney familiar with weapons and the Second Amendment is essential.

If a person wants a machine gun license and is willing to do the following, they can get one, as long as they are not one of the following:

  • convicted felons or under indictment for a felony
  • adjudged mentally incompetent
  • an illegal alien
  • drug or alcohol addicts
  • dishonorably discharged veterans
  • someone who has renounced their U.S. citizenship
  • someone convicted of domestic violence

Suppose an applicant does not fall into one of the categories above. In that case, the next steps are to get an automatic firearms license, pay a $200.00 transfer tax, undergo an extensive FBI criminal background check, and fill out the ATF application. An applicant must be at least 21 years old.

Defenses to Machine Gun and Automatic Firearm Charges

Defenses to a machine gun charge may be hard to construct; however, sometimes evidence exists from which an elite, highly experienced automatic firearms defense attorney could build a defense. One defense could be that the buyer did not know the gun they bought was fully automatic. If the gun was never fired or never fired in full-auto mode, the buyer may not realize it was a machine gun. If the firearm was illegal (stolen, black market unregistered, or illegally converted), the seller might want to get rid of it for what they could get and not divulge that it is not correctly registered. If the price was thousands of dollars below market prices for a machine gun, a buyer could claim they had no reason to know the gun was valuable or worth several times the purchase price.

Private sale buyers do not run serial number checks on guns bought from other private citizens and would have no idea the gun may be stolen or illegal. People see or hear of a gun for sale, look at it, and decide whether to buy it. They rely on the statements of the private seller. Also, buyers do not run a check on guns they buy at a gun show from a private citizen. A rifle could change hands numerous times, and a purchaser might not know it is an illegal gun. Many honest, law-abiding people probably have illicit firearms in their collections and have no idea.

Getting Automatic Firearm Charges Dismissed and Reduced

Even if the prosecutor has an iron-clad case and maybe even a confession, there are still things a zealous and talented defense lawyer can do to mitigate or reduce a conviction’s ramifications. A skilled, savvy defense lawyer can negotiate a reasonable plea agreement for a reduced charge or a lenient sentence agreement. An intelligent and persuasive negotiator will likely be able to arrange a plea and sentence that an inferior lawyer could never dream of obtaining. A great criminal defense attorney can always make things better in one way or another.

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Machine Gun and Automatic Firearms Charges Defense Attorneys in Michigan

LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.’s attorneys are well-known to federal and state judges in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, and Washtenaw Counties as formidable advocates for our clients. Law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and judges respect our tenacity and passion for protecting our clients. We are also well-known to federal U.S. attorneys and state prosecutors for providing aggressive, exceptional defense. Our well-earned stellar reputation means you have an advantage right from the start when you walk into court with one of our preeminent attorneys by your side.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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