In a previous post, we discussed how criminal charges and penalties can multiply when alcohol and firearms mix. The same goes for the combination of firearms and controlled substances, though the consequences increase significantly in this equation.
Possessing a firearm and any amount of an illegal substance could leave individuals facing serious charges. Here are some important things to know about these cases.
The law is clear about firearms and drugs
It is against the law to have a firearm on your person as well as an illegal substance, such as heroin. However, there are a few specific details to be aware of when it comes to these cases:
- Federal rules state it is against the law for an “unlawful user” of any controlled substances to also possess a firearm. The term “unlawful user” leaves considerable room for interpretation.
- It is illegal for anyone with a previous felony on their record to possess a firearm, including a felony drug conviction. Therefore, possessing both items with a previous felony can lead to serious consequences as well.
Just like with alcohol use, even having a permit to carry a firearm cannot prevent the risk of criminal charges in these cases.
Is there a potential crackdown?
On top of that, a recent report from the United States Department of Justice indicates that federal law enforcement is focusing on these cases. They even have a strong presence in North Carolina. The case discussed in the report addresses both the details mentioned above; a North Carolina man now faces a federal prison sentence for possessing cocaine and a stolen firearm. He also had previous felonies on his record.
The reason the combination of these charges is so serious is because law enforcement strongly associates violence with narcotics trafficking. Therefore, a crackdown on crimes involving narcotics could very well lead to a crackdown on these compounded offenses as well.
Compounded charges, compounded penalties
State and federal laws explicitly address the possession of both a firearm and an illegal substance. However, individuals could also face compounded penalties for violating:
- Separate rules regarding firearm possession and drug possession
- Both state and federal laws
Additionally, the amount of drugs in someone’s possession will make a difference. If it is a larger amount, the prosecution will likely try to prove the intention to distribute or traffic drugs. Distribution and trafficking charges have more severe penalties than possession at both state and federal levels.
These two possession charges may lead to trouble, but you still have the power to fight these charges and protect yourself.