Types Of Federal Weapons Charges

The Law Offices of Steven Rodemer

Federal weapons charges are some of the most serious charges an individual can face. Federal crimes are the highest level of crimes. When coupled with a weapons charge, the consequences can be devastating. When charged with a federal weapons crime, not only has a law been broken on a state level, but also on a federal level.

More often than not, federal weapons charges are issued to convicted felons when they are arrested for another crime while either possessing, distributing, or transporting a weapon. These charges are considered to be felonies and involve the illegal possession, transportation, or distribution of firearms or other weapons. Not only do these charges carry hefty fines, but they also carry jail time and lifelong consequences.

If you have been charged with a federal weapons crime, there is no time to waste. A public defender will not have the experience or expertise to fully support and defend your rights in and out of court. Therefore, a dedicated, experienced, and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is needed to ensure the best outcome of the case. Facing a federal weapons charge on your own can be a mistake that will deprive you of freedom, therefore choosing the right criminal defense lawyer near you may be one of the most important decisions you’ve ever made.

What Are The Four Types Of Federal Weapons Charges?

There are a range of weapons charges that a prosecutor can choose to file against an individual. However, there are four main types of federal weapons charges that a prosecutor can choose from. Understanding each type of federal weapons charge will better help a charged individual see that the crime they have been charged with is serious, and therefore requires adequate legal representation. To give our clients a better understanding we have compiled all pertinent information necessary for each type of federal weapons charge.

Unlawful Possession

Unlawful possession of a weapon is a crime charged to individuals that either:

  • Possess a weapon without the appropriate license
  • Convicted felon in illegal possession of a weapon
  • Convicted felon in illegal possession of ammunition
  • Convicted felon in illegal possession of weapons-related contraband

Once an individual has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or issued a domestic violence restraining order, they are also unable to legally possess a firearm either. Weapons that are inoperable, dismantled, or locked up are not an exception to unlawful possession of a weapon.

Firearms Trafficking

Firearms trafficking is considered to be the movement of guns from legal to illegal streams of commerce either by taking them across state lines or keeping them within the state. Almost every gun crime committed in the United States starts off as a legal firearm. Through this process, guns are diverted into illegal markets through straw purchases, secondary (private) sales, or theft from firearm dealers or individual gun owners.

However, this charge is not the same as illegally importing or exporting firearms and other weapons. Firearms trafficking is a type of federal weapons charge that can be brought against an individual for smuggling of weapons and ammunition.

As soon as a weapon is illegally trafficked across state lines or national borders, the crime automatically becomes federal.

Violent Crimes

Technically, any federal crime that involves the unlawful use of a weapon or firearm will be considered a violent crime. Once a federal crime has been committed while in possession of an unlawful weapon, the crime is heightened to a federal weapons crime on top of the original charge. This means that typically, weapons trafficking will be considered a violent crime.

If an individual commits a felony crime that results in death, they can also be charged with a violent crime. Rape, first and second-degree murder, as well as various assault charges, are also federally classified as a violent crimes.


Yes, individuals can be federally charged with a fraudulent weapons crime. This specifically refers to when an individual obtains a gun through a fraudulent process. This can mean providing the wrong info for a background check for a firearm, illegally obtaining a weapons permit, or illegally obtaining a falsified weapons permit.

Federal & State Charges Coincide

Out of all the types of federal weapons charges, it’s important to know that there will be charges on the state level as well. In the state of Colorado, open carry is allowed in certain towns and cities, but not in others. Concealed carry is only allowed if the individual is concealing their weapon in their vehicle or has the proper permits to do so elsewhere. Brandishing a weapon in Colorado is also illegal.

When a federal weapons crime has been committed, it is more likely than not, that additional state-level charges will be added as well. Having federal and state charges against an individual can be very overwhelming and feel as if there are no options for them. However, when so many charges are brought against a person, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal or prove that the charges were false. Either way, it will take a dedicated and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to do either of these things for an individual charged with a federal weapons crime.

How A Federal Weapons Attorney Can Help

Weapons charges in Colorado can be federal charges, due to the fact that federal firearm violations are instantly investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). However, state or local cases can be adopted by the ATF. Therefore if an individual is arrested on state weapons charges, the ATF can later choose to prosecute the case at a federal level.

If you have been charged with a federal weapons crime, you could be facing a vast array of consequences. Whether or not you have a previous criminal record, being convicted of a federal weapons charge could have repercussions that call for hefty fines, prison time, lengthy probation periods, strict parole protocol, as well as other lifelong consequences. The severity of past criminal charges will also be taken into consideration when sentencing occurs.

When convicted of a federal weapons charge, you could face up to 10 years in prison, and 15 years if you have a previous criminal record. Additionally, if a crime is committed while in possession of a firearm, the punishment could range between 5 years and life in prison.

It is essential to carefully consider the surrounding facts when developing a strategy to defend against an unlawful firearm possession charge. The prosecution’s case is most vulnerable when a skilled attorney identifies the weak points. It is imperative that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney if you have either been arrested on a weapons charge or if you are under suspicion of having committed one. They will conduct an extensive investigation into your case as well as ensure your rights are fully protected throughout the process. Federal authorities will be handled by an experienced criminal defense attorney as well so that you do not have to be worried about misunderstanding questions, or incriminating yourself. A weapons charge attorney will also use aggressive tactics to fight the weapons charges in federal court.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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