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Massachusetts Court Discusses Elements of an Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Offense

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts gun case discussing the required elements that the prosecution must establish before a judge or jury can return a conviction. Ultimately, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that he lacked knowledge of the specifics of the weapon that subjected it to regulation. Instead, the court held that a defendant need only know that the weapon was a firearm “in the conventional sense of the word.”

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a group of friends were out for the night, stopping by several parties. As they arrived at a hotel after one of the parties, they met up with the defendant. After picking up the defendant, the group then went to another party. The defendant got out of the car, grabbed a weapon that belonged to one of the other occupants, and fired it twice into the air.

Police responded to the scene, but were unable to find the weapon of the bullets. They did, however, find two shell casings for a 9mm bullet. Police were also able to obtain surveillance video footage, showing a man raising an object into the air and then two flashes of light coming from the object. The defendant was arrested and charged with the unlawful possession of a firearm.

The Defendant’s Argument

At trial, the defendant argued that he could not be convicted for the unlawful possession of a firearm because he did not know, at the time he possessed the gun, that it was subject to regulation. Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 section 10, a firearm is defined as a “weapon . . . from which a shot or bullet can be discharged and of which the length of the barrel or barrels is less than [sixteen] inches.” To be convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm, a defendant must possess it “knowingly.” So the defendant argued that, because he did not know that the gun was subject to regulation, he could not be charged.

The court disagreed, finding that the term “knowingly” refers to the possessory element rather than knowledge of the weapon itself. So, under the court’s interpretation, a defendant knowingly possesses a firearm as long as they are aware they are in possession of a weapon; it is not important if the defendant knows that the weapon meets the statutory criteria for a “firearm” under Massachusetts law.

Have You Been Arrested in a Massachusetts Gun Case?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a Massachusetts gun possession case, contact the experienced criminal defense attorney, Patrick J. Murphy for immediate assistance. Attorney Murphy is a dedicated Boston criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of gun cases and other possessory offenses, such as Massachusetts drug crimes. Attorney Murphy is known for his aggressive style of representation and always puts the interest of his clients first. To learn more about how Attorney Murphy can help you defend against the allegations you are facing, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free consultation today.

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