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Weapons Crimes

A Columbus, Ohio, Defense Attorney Discusses Weapons Crimes

What counts as a weapon for law enforcement purposes?

Under the Ohio Revised Code, a deadly weapon is “any instrument, device, or thing capable of inflicting death, and designed or specially adapted for use as a weapon, or possessed, carried, or used as a weapon.” This definition covers all kinds of operable handguns, rifles, and shotguns, as well as all forms of explosives. The definition is broad enough, however, to allow large knives, switchblades, straight razors, and tools like hammers and sharp screwdrivers to be considered deadly weapons.

In other words, how an object can be, and is, used determines whether it meets the legal definition of a weapon.

Do Ohio and the federal government have different definitions for weapons?

No. The U.S. government uses the same definitions for types of weapons as the State of Ohio does, but federal authorities explicitly acknowledge more kinds of “destructive devices.” For instance, 18 U.S. Code § 921 lists items like bombs, rockets, and mines as needing regulation and control.

What types of offenses are considered weapons crimes?

Three main categories of weapons offenses exist:

  • Illegal possession, such as having a weapon while you are under disability (i.e., prohibited to own and carry) because of a prior conviction
  • Illegal transportation or sale
  • Use in the commission of a crime

This list does not come close to painting the full picture of weapons crimes that can draw charges from Ohio and federal authorities. If you do not see a discussion of your case on this page, contact a Columbus, Ohio, weapons crimes lawyer to ask more in-depth questions.

What are some examples of illegal possession of a weapon?

To again present just a short list, the following situations make possessing a weapon illegal:

  • Having any kind of gun on your person or in your home while you are on parole
  • Driving around with it in your car if it is not properly stowed
  • Carrying a concealed weapon when you do not have a permit to do so
  • Firing a rifle while drunk or stoned
  • Firing a gun out of your car
  • Firing a weapon near a school zone
  • Carrying a concealed handgun into a building where doing so is not allowed
  • Using explosives without the proper permits
  • Owning a fully automatic machinegun without a federal permit

What can make transporting or selling a weapon illegal?

Driving with a loaded firearm in your car or truck is illegal in Ohio even if you have a concealed carry permit.

You also need state and federal licenses to sell, import, and export most kinds of guns, all explosives, and a few types of knives and tools that can be converted into weapons. Lacking those endorsements, as well as failing to pay required taxes on products and sales, constitutes illegal activity. A Columbus gun crimes lawyer will have more information for business owners and collectors who wish to avoid unintentionally engaging in illegal weapons transactions.

What happens if a weapons gets used in the commission of a crime?

Ohio law makes showing or possessing a firearm while committing a crime is a felony punishable by a mandatory sentence of three years in prison.

The presence of a weapon, especially a firearm, can also cause police to classify any number of other criminal offenses as “aggravated.” For instance, robbing a person while threatening him with a knife will often bring a charge of aggravated robbery, which carries a harsher penalty than robbery.

Can I face more than one weapons charge for the same incident?

Yes. Many scenarios result in multiple weapons crime charges. Examples can include the following:

  • Separate possession charges for each illegally weapon found in one’s home
  • A charge for possession of a firearm while on probation (i.e., “under disability”) and a charge for carrying a concealed handgun without a permit
  • A charge for illegal possession of a firearm and a charge for aggravated assault
  • A charge for just displaying (called “brandishing” in the applicable law) a firearm and a charge for aggravated robbery
  • A charge for wounding with a weapon and for aggravated robbery

When can I legally carry a weapon in Ohio?

Ohio allows people not otherwise banned from possessing weapons to carry firearms openly on their person and concealed under clothing. No special permission is required to openly carry a gun, shotgun, or rifle, but anyone carrying a gun in public is likely to get stopped and questioned by police.

A concealed carry permit is needed to keep an unloaded firearm in one’s car or loaded and out of sight while walking around. Qualifying for a concealed carry permit requires being at least 21 years old, filing a form, paying a fee, passing a background check, and completing a safety course.

Can I legally use a weapon in self-defense?

Yes, but only with many restrictions.

Under a legal rule called the Castle Doctrine, you can use deadly force with or without a weapon against a person who illegally enters your home or vehicle. You also have a right to defend yourself when physically attacked in other locations. Often, claims of self-defense outside of your home or vehicle must be supported with evidence showing that you feared for your own life and you had no reasonable means of escape.

What penalties can I receive for a weapons crime?

The answer to this question depends on many factors. These include the specific charge, the type of weapon(s) involved, whether anyone was injured and how badly, the identity and age of injured persons, and your previous history of criminal convictions. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney in Columbus, Ohio, will help you understand the possible outcomes of a plea or trial on weapons charges.

How can a lawyer help me with my weapons crime case?

Call Campbell Law to schedule a free consultation to find out. We can make sure you understand why you have been charged and what your legal options are.

April Campbell spent several years prosecuting individuals accused of many different types of weapons crimes. She now provides defense because she knows that certain offenses carry unjustly harsh punishments and that everyone deserves a chance to defend themselves, protect their rights, and retain their freedom.