There are certain things you can’t do if you are intoxicated, such as drive a car, boat, or any other vehicle. You also may not legally be in possession of a firearm. A superior defense attorney can help you avoid jail and possibly a conviction.
Michigan Law Prohibits the Possession of a Firearm While Intoxicated
It should be obvious to everyone why the law prohibits possession or use of a firearm while someone is impaired or intoxicated by drugs or alcohol: it is a tragedy waiting to happen. Most people would not even think of going to a gun range for target practice while intoxicated because of the danger of an accident. What may not be obvious to people are circumstances when you can run afoul of the law unintentionally.
Each year during hunting season, many thousands of people go boating or travel into the woodlands to hunt deer, duck, geese, and other animals. It is safe to assume many of these people gather with friends or relatives in hunting lodges or cabins in a social fashion and may very well have a few drinks, maybe more than a few drinks. If you venture out into the woods armed while intoxicated or impaired, you have committed a crime. In many cases, people may feel fine or just slightly buzzed and not realize their level of intoxication. Intoxication can be by either alcohol or controlled substances, including marijuana. Some hunters may smoke marijuana before heading out to hunt. This may very well also be a crime if the hunter is impaired by marijuana.
If you are sitting by a fire at night outdoors with some friends (or alone), and have drunk too much or smoked too much, and have your trusty shotgun or rifle by your side, you are committing a crime even though you have no intention of using the gun at that time.
Another scenario that some people unintentionally fall into is where they have a concealed pistol permit and have too much to drink and are arrested for drunk driving. If they have a pistol in their car that they had totally forgotten about, they can and probably will be charged with possession of a firearm while intoxicated. In this circumstance, especially without a strong defense, they very well also may lose their concealed pistol license (CPL).
How intoxicated or impaired do I have to be to not be able to possess a firearm?
The law attempts to treat firearms the same as driving a car or other vehicle. If a police officer, DRN ranger, or Coast Guard member encounters you and believes you are under the influence, and they find out you possess a firearm, they will ask the same questions they would ask a driver, and they will ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test. Your acceptance of a CPL constitutes implied consent to submit to a PBT to determine blood alcohol level just as with a car driver’s license. You also may be asked to do field sobriety tests. If the officer believes it is likely that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will be arrested. The bodily alcohol limit for possessing firearms crimes is the same as with driving, meaning that a BAL of .08 or above means you are legally presumed to be intoxicated.
What are the penalties for possessing a firearm while impaired or intoxicated?
There are a number of different possible penalties, depending upon the circumstances. They break down as follows:
- Simple possession of a firearm while intoxicated (blood alcohol level .02-.07), Civil Infraction (not criminal): $100 fine and a 1-year suspension of CPL;
- Simple possession of a firearm while intoxicated (blood alcohol level of .08-.09), Misdemeanor: 93 days in jail and/or $100 fine and a 3-year suspension of CPL;
- Simple possession of a firearm while intoxicated (blood alcohol level of .10 or more or under the influence of a controlled substance), Misdemeanor: 93 days in jail and/or $100 fine and revocation of CPL;
- Discharging a firearm while intoxicated: 93 days in jail and/or $500;
- Possession of a firearm while intoxicated causing serious impairment of the bodily function of another person: $1,000-$5,000 and/or 5 years in prison;
- Possession of a firearm while intoxicated causing death of another person: $2,500-$10,000 and/or 15 years in prison.
What to do if confronted by an officer or ranger if you believe you probably are intoxicated and you possess a firearm
If you possess a firearm and find yourself being questioned by an officer or ranger regarding your level of intoxication, it is important to not volunteer any information more than necessary, such as your license, proof of insurance, and registration. You do not want to make any statements about how much you have had to drink, have smoked marijuana, or used other drugs. You should be polite and respectful to the officer or ranger, and tell them you are uncomfortable making any statements without talking to your lawyer first.
It is important to know that Michigan’s concealed pistol law requires you to immediately notify any officer you encounter that you are a CPL holder. If you don’t, and a gun is later found on you or in your car, you will lose your CPL. If you are in the woods hunting, most likely, you will only be asked for your identification and hunting license, both of which you must produce on request. You are required to submit to a preliminary breath test and perhaps a breathalyzer test, urine test, or blood test if the officer or ranger has probable cause to believe you possess a firearm while under the influence.
What to do when facing the charge of Possession of a Firearm While Intoxicated
If you have been arrested or ticketed for possessing a firearm while intoxicated, you should immediately contact a well-respected, highly astute criminal defense firm with experience in these cases. You should never attempt to resolve such a case on your own. With an exceptional defense attorney handling the matter, you might be able to save your CPL if you have one, and the lawyer can seek a dismissal of the charge or help you avoid jail or prison.
Defense Firm for Charges of Possession of a Firearm While Intoxicated
The dedicated, experienced and zealous defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully represented thousands of clients on felony and misdemeanor charges in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw, and Livingston Counties and throughout Michigan. We have a well-earned reputation for providing the highest quality defense and aggressive representation, while showing empathy and care for each client.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation, or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.