The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office just changed their policy on how they will be handling cases that involve a firearm. This includes prohibited possessor charges involving a firearm. Here is what you need to know.
Prohibited possessor charges in Arizona are legally called Misconduct Involving a Weapon charges. While there are many ways that a person can commit misconduct involving a weapon, we will dive into prohibited possessor charges. The statute for this charge is ARS 13-3102. This crime is charged in the instance where a person is in possession of a firearm (or other deadly weapon) and is prohibited to do so by law. If an individual is arrested for prohibited possessor charges in Arizona, it is a class 4 felony.
A class four felony is a serious charge, but what usually makes it worse in these circumstances is that the reason that the accused is a prohibited possessor is because of a prior felony conviction. This makes things worse because with a prior felony conviction, the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines go up quite a bit. For example, if the prior conviction can be used against you, it will likely take probation off the table at sentencing. This means that the sentence for the charge would be prison mandatory anyway.
What does “deadly weapon” mean?
As I mentioned earlier, a prohibited possessor is legally banned from possessing a “deadly weapon.” This begs the question, what exactly is a deadly weapon? For that answer, we turn to the definitions section of Title 13 (the criminal code) of the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS 13-105). Arizona law defines a deadly weapon as “anything designed for lethal use, including a firearm.” Yes, you read that right. It is broad and wide open for interpretation. So, is a pocketknife a deadly weapon? It very well could be depending on the intent of the manufacturer. The most common way I see this charged is for illegal possession of a firearm. That said, I have once seen it charged for ‘illegal’ possession of a pocketknife.
What does “possession” exactly mean?
One other question that I often get is, what exactly constitutes “possession” of a deadly weapon? Again, we look to the definitions section of Title 13 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS 13-105) for this answer (we find a lot of answers in the definitions section). Under paragraph 35, we can see that possession means “a voluntary act if the defendant knowingly exercised dominion or control over property.” Again, there is a lot packed into that little sentence and some of it is open for interpretation while other parts are defined in law with definitions that are also open for interpretation. This is where a lawyer (me!) comes in handy.
Who is a prohibited possessor?
One important fact to start with here is that there is no registration database in Arizona where a person can check to see if they are a prohibited possessor. This means that the responsibility of knowing whether or not you are a prohibited possessor lies with you. ARS 13-3101 provides a legal definition of who exactly is a prohibited possessor. A prohibited possessor is a person who:
- Has been adjudicated by court order to be a danger to himself, herself, or others;
- Has been adjudicated by court order to be incompetent or to have a persistent, acute, or grave disability;
- Has been convicted of a felony in Arizona or any other state;
- Is currently serving a period of incarceration at a detention or correctional facility;
- Is currently on parole, house arrest, work furlough, community supervision, or probation for a felony or domestic violence-related conviction;
- Is an undocumented or non-immigrant alien. Non-immigrant foreign nationals who obtain a valid hunting license are excepted;
- Is a minor under the age of 18 without supervision by a parent, guardian, or grandparent. Minors from ages 14 to 17 are permitted to possess firearms for the purposes of legal hunting, shooting events, or marksmanship practice.
If your rights have been taken away by the government, you may be able to have them restored. Contact me to discuss your specific case for no charge, and we will figure out whether or not you are eligible.
What do I do if I’m charged with misconduct involving a weapon for being a prohibited possessor?
Any felony charges are serious. This is especially true if you have a prior felony conviction on your record. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing misconduct involving a weapon charges, you should find a passionate Arizona criminal defense attorney to represent you. As I mentioned before, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office just recently changed its plea agreement policy and this change will require that plea agreements for prohibited possessor charges involving a firearm require a mandatory prison term. If you are facing these types of charges or just have questions that I can help you with, you can contact me 24/7 via text or call at (480) 363-0090 or you can send me a message on our contact me page.