Federal and State Machine Gun and Automatic Firearm Offenses

Anyone facing state or federal firearms charges is looking at an uphill battle to get justice and fair treatment in court. It takes a tough, experienced defense lawyer to stand up and successfully fight to protect and defend a client on these charges.

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Automatic Firearm Charges and Penalties

Because the government is so aggressive with its prosecution of firearms charges, particularly in cases with automatic weapons, you will want to be fully informed before making any important decisions regarding your representation or what to do in your case. If you are facing an accusation or your firearms have been seized, you will want to retain experienced defense counsel right away to try and stop or limit potential charges.

What is a machine gun?

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 also exist, and the same rules apply. Parts kits that contain full-auto parts that can be swapped into a semi-auto gun to make it fully auto are also legally considered a “machine gun.” Obviously, these guns were designed 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 to do so.  

Michigan’s Penalty for Possession of a Machine Gun

The penalty for unlicensed possession or sale of a machine gun is a potential 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?

It should be understood that machine guns are not “banned” or “prohibited.” Automatic firearms require a license. An official Opinion of the Attorney General of Michigan was issued on December 27, 2005, took the position that if a person obtained a license to own a machine gun from the federal government through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Michigan would respect the license and would find that a person with such a registered machine gun would be within the law.

You can own a machine gun that was legally registered before May 19, 1986, and you can buy such a gun from a person who had such a gun legally 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.

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Federal Law Regarding Machine Guns

Federal gun laws apply to Michigan residents. Federal penalties are generally greater than Michigan penalties. The federal laws are very detailed and complicated and are 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. As stated above, a person may not even possess the parts to convert a semi-auto gun into a full-auto gun. Converting a semi-auto into a full-auto is a 20-year federal felony and a potential $250,000.00 fine.

If a person wants a machine gun license and is willing to do the following, he or she 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

If an applicant does not fall into one of the categories above, the next steps are to 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.

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Possible Defenses to Machine Gun Charges

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

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 and 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 it may never be known it is an illegal gun. Many honest, law-abiding people probably have illegal guns in their collections and have no idea about their illegality.

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 the ramifications of a conviction. A reasonable plea agreement for a reduced charge or a very lenient sentence agreement may be arranged with the judge or prosecutor. A savvy 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.

Machine Gun and Automatic Firearms Charges Defense Attorneys in Michigan

LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.’s attorneys are well-known to prosecutors and judges in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Washtenaw counties as formidable advocates for our clients, and we are respected for our tenacity and passion in protecting our clients. We are also well-known to federal prosecutors and judges for the same traits. Our well-earned stellar reputation means when you walk into court with one of our preeminent attorneys by your side, you have an advantage right from the start.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation, or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.

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

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