Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years prison and a $10,000 fine. While the defenses to search and seizure are still available there are also other defenses available to the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Recently the First District Court of Appeal addressed whether the statute itself was unconstitutionally vague. The defendant in that case possessed a rifle that was a replica of an antique firearm with the one difference being that he had attached a scope to the rifle. This is important because the definition of firearm specifically excludes an “antique firearm” while the statute making it a crime for a felon to possess a firearm only states it is illegal to possess a “firearm”. An “Antique firearm” means any firearm manufactured in or before 1918 (including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar early type of ignition system) or replica thereof.
The State argued that because of the obvious visual difference, the firearm possessed was not an exact copy of the original and therefore could not be a replica. Quoting the dictionary, the Court found that “it is not apparent that common understanding and practice equates a replica with an exact copy”. In addition the Court found that the distinctive feature of an antique firearm as defined in the statute is the firing system and therefore for some people, a firearm with the firing system at issue as well as a scope may still be a reasonably exact reproduction of an antique firearm so as to qualify as a replica.
The court found that the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon law “is unconstitutionally vague because the phrase ‘firearm’ as elsewhere defined does not give adequate notice of what type of firearm may be lawfully carried by a convicted felon and, because of the imprecision, may invite arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”
Whether a firearm qualifies as an antique firearm can be very technical as can other defenses such as to vehicle stops, other seizures and searches. If you or a loved one is charged with any firearm or weapons offense please click or call today.