Over the last decade Maryland lawmakers have specifically targeted handguns by making them harder to purchase, sell and even manufacture. The legislature has made specific findings that are part of the criminal code that basically hold handguns responsible for the alarming increase in serious injuries and deaths that occur during the commission of violent crimes. As a result of these findings lawmakers have passed some of the toughest gun laws in the country. These laws can carry lengthy prison sentences, and in jurisdictions like Baltimore City they can cause defendants to be held pretrial without bail for months. This is true even for non-violent gun possession cases where there were no injuries and the gun was not brandished or used in a threatening manner. For some defendants simple gun possession is enough to cause a no bail hold and the real possibility of jail.
The gun laws in Maryland are strict and complicated, which makes understanding them extremely important. Simply possessing or transporting a handgun in an improper manner can result in a misdemeanor charge for wear, transport and carry. This offense has a 3-year maximum penalty and a 30-day mandatory jail sentence that must be imposed upon conviction unless the court grants probation before judgment. While it is not out of the question, most defendants that are only charged with misdemeanor gun possession will be able to either post bail or be released or their recognizance. With good representation these defendants could avoid serving any jail time. Misdemeanor possession is a pretty straightforward offense, as you cannot carry a gun in public or drive with a gun unless it is unloaded, in a case and separated from the ammunition. You also may only drive with a handgun if you are going to and from you house, the shop or the range.
The complex part of the Maryland gun law is figuring out who is actually disqualified from owning or possessing a firearm in any manner. While there are different laws that separate handguns from rifles and shotguns, a disqualified individual cannot possess any type of firearm. There are numerous reasons why a person can be disqualified from firearm possession, with the most obvious being a felony conviction. Many people think that a felony conviction is the only reason that they may be prohibited from possessing a gun, but in Maryland this is not the case. A person who is convicted of a disqualifying crime may not possess a firearm, and faces the possibility of a felony charge under Title 5 of the Public Safety Code. This law carries a 15-year maximum penalty with the possibility of a 5-year minimum, so avoiding this charge at all costs is key.
The term “convicted of a disqualifying crime” is not as cut and dry as one would think, as it includes receiving probation before judgment (PBJ) to some offenses. Many defendants are told that a PBJ is not a conviction, and in some cases this is true. But under the Public Safety Code a PBJ for a crime of violence and a second degree domestically related assault qualifies as a being convicted of a disqualifying crime. There are other misdemeanor offenses that count as disqualifying crimes such as non-domestically related second-degree assault and any other misdemeanor offense that carries a 2-year or greater maximum penalty. Conspiracy to commit an offense is generally classified as a common law misdemeanor, but if the penalty is over two years, then a conviction will prohibit a person from firearm possession. Individuals under current civil protective orders are also prohibited from firearm possession, as well as those who have been previously found incompetent or not criminally responsible in court and those that are addicted to a controlled substance. Findings of juvenile delinquency may also prohibit a person from possessing a handgun if the person is under 30 years old and the juvenile case resulted in a finding of delinquent to a disqualifying offense. There are other less common restrictions that may apply to certain people, and the best way to know for sure is to consult a gun lawyer.
If you have ever been in court for a criminal charge it advisable to contact an attorney to see if you are legally permitted to own or possess any type of firearm including hunting rifles and other recreational guns. Benjamin Herbst specializes in defending all types of gun charges in Maryland including possession by a convicted felon and other disqualified individuals under the public safety code, and takes cases in every jurisdiction including the federal courts in Baltimore and Greenbelt. Keep in mind that a person on federal property can still be charged with violating a provision of the state gun laws. Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598.