The main penalty enhancements involving firearms in DC are when someone charged has a prior felony conviction. That triggers enhancements that can result in mandatory prison time.
In federal court, when a person has a prior felony conviction and is charged with carrying a firearm, that can result in huge penalties depending on the circumstances. A person could potentially be looking at a 15-year jail sentence. There are huge potential sentencing enhancements in federal court, as such, it is vital to contact a DC federal gun lawyer for the best chance at building a defense that suits the facts and circumstances of your case.
Defenses available to an individual facing penalty enhancements in firearms case in DC depend on the facts of the particular case. One of the primary defenses to a gun charge is the defense of mistake or accident.
For example, a person is a government contractor who lives in Maryland and owns a firearm legally in Maryland. They go to the range on Saturday and put the gun in their backpack to go the range in Maryland. The person then takes that backpack into the District of Columbia where they work.
When they get to their job at a federal building with a metal detector and x-ray machine, they put the backpack on the x-ray machine forgetting that the gun is in there from the range. The alarm is triggered because the gun is seen on the x-ray machine and the person is arrested.
The person did not know that the gun was in his or her backpack. They know it is against the law to have that gun in DC even though it is legally registered in Maryland. That is a “mistake of fact defense” and is a viable defense. Not knowing it was against the law to have the gun in Washington, DC is a “mistake of law” defense and is not a viable defense.
Federal gun cases are very serious. A person charged with these types of crimes that involve penalty enhancements is in the best position to get a good result when they hire an attorney who is experienced in these types of cases, understands the current issues, has litigated these cases before, and works very hard.
It is very dangerous to not hire an attorney to represent a person in these types of cases. That person does themselves a disservice and is in harm’s way if they do not hire an attorney on these types of cases.
The issue of an unregistered firearm as related to penalty enhancements is that any gun not registered in the District of Columbia by law constitutes an unregistered firearm. Even if the gun is legally purchased and registered in Virginia, Maryland, or North Carolina. If the firearm is not registered within the District of Columbia, it constitutes an unregistered firearm and exposes the person who is carrying to criminal liability.