How may previous convictions affect a weapons charge?

On Behalf of | Dec 3, 2021 | Blog, Weapons Crimes |

A violent felony charge generally requires a strong and aggressive defense to avoid conviction. As noted by Georgetown Law, an alleged and convicted offender may face a much more severe sentence if later found in possession of a weapon. A felon-in-possession charge may also apply if another member of the individual’s household had direct control of the weapon.

After three violent felony convictions, a weapons charge could result in a mandatory minimum penalty of fifteen years of imprisonment. One or more serious drug offense convictions could also count towards the three-conviction qualifier. Based on federal guidelines, a judge may also decide on a sentence of life imprisonment.

Armed Career Criminal Act

The federal Armed Career Criminal Act states that individuals convicted of three violent felonies or serious drug offenses could face enhanced penalties for a subsequent weapons charge. A combination of the two types of offenses may also count as a three-conviction qualifier.

To convict on a violent offense charge, however, the prosecution must fulfill its burden of proof. The alleged offender must have fully understood that his or her actions would produce an outcome harmful to another individual.

Reckless state of mind

In a June 2021 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed a lower court decision that viewed a prior conviction of reckless aggravated assault as a violent felony offense. The Supreme Court ruled that the lower court incorrectly relied on the previous conviction to qualify a new felon-in-possession charge for the ACCA enhanced sentencing guidelines.

A court generally reviews evidence of a defendant’s state of mind to determine whether he or she acted recklessly or with a knowledgeable intent to cause harm to another. A charge may not qualify as a “violent offense” based on the defendant’s “reckless state of mind” when the purported unlawful act occurred.