Because a gun has the ability to cause serious injury to another person, its possession is tightly regulated in Missouri. While everyone has the right to own a gun, the law does allow some exceptions for those who have been convicted of felonies or for certain violent crimes. It also places restrictions on when and where a person can carry a gun in public. These laws are generally encapsulated as Unlawful Use of a Weapon, R.S.Mo. 571.030.
Defense of Property & Vehicle ( Castle Doctrine )
For a person to assert a self defense claim, they will need to do so under the statute R.S.Mo. 563.031, Defense of Property & Vehicle. Also known as the Castle Doctrine, this statute outlines how and when a person may defend themselves from harm. This is known as an “affirmative defense” and it requires a skilled St. Louis criminal defense attorney, as it will require proof from the defendant in order to be successful.
A person may not assert this defense if they were the instigator of an alleged action. This means that a person cannot pick a fight and then allege they fought back only because they found themselves in a fight. Because the defendant started the fight, they lose any right to claim self defense.
Self defense claims require a skilled St. Louis criminal defense attorney. As an affirmative defense, the defendant must prove that their self defense was justified. This is different than other criminal cases where the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This shift in the burden of proof can be tricky for defense lawyers unfamiliar with this law.
Unlawful Possession of a Weapon
For those who have been convicted of certain crimes, their possessing a weapon becomes dangerous for society. If they are found to be in possession of a gun, they can be charged with Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, R.S.Mo. 571.070. This is a Class C felony and a conviction can mean 7 years in jail.
People are restricted from possessing a weapon if:
- They have been convicted of a felony in this state or of a crime in another state that would have been a felony in Missouri
- They are a fugitive, habitually intoxicated, or judged to be mentally incompetent
This means that a person convicted of a felony can never be found to be in possession of a weapon. Even if the gun does not belong to the felon, if police find a weapon on a convicted felon or someone otherwise restricted from possessing a weapon, that person may be charged with unlawful possession of a weapon.
Unlawful Use of a Weapon
While we have a Constitutional right to bear arms, we are obligated to use those weapons within the confines of the law. Unlawful Use of a Weapon, R.S.Mo. 571.030, lays out the conditions for using a weapon illegally and the penalties for such behavior.
Unlawful use of a weapon can occur if a person does one of the following:
- Carries a concealed weapon without a permit
- Sets a spring gun
- Discharges a firearms into a house, vehicle, railroad train, boat, or aircraft
- Exhibits, in the presence of one or more persons, a weapon capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner
- Possesses a firearm or object capable of lethal use while intoxicated
- Fires a gun within 100 yards of an occupied schoolhouse, courthouse, or church
- Carries a firearm into a church, election precinct, or any political building
Weapons charges are significant crimes and can carry penalties ranging from a Class A misdemeanor with one year in prison to a Class D felony with four years in prison. Not only will a person get jail time with a conviction for unlawful use of a weapon, it will prevent you from owning a gun in the future. While the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, that right can be restricted for convicted felons, especially ones convicted of a weapons charge. If owning a gun is a right you want to keep, contact a St. Louis criminal defense attorney immediately if you are charged with unlawful use of a weapon.
St. Louis criminal defense attorney Richard R. Lozano has been handling weapons charges since 1994. He puts this experience to work for you, aggressively fighting any and all criminal charges you may face. He has helped clients in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, and Franklin County facing serious felony charges and has worked to get them the best possible outcomes for their respective cases.
For a free consultation regarding your weapons charge or for any felony charges you may be facing, contact St. Louis criminal defense attorney Richard R. Lozano today at (314) 456-4567.