Every year, brave men and women all over the country enlist in various branches of the United States Armed Forces. Many of these individuals reside in the Tacoma area and whether they join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Reserves, or the National Guard, they will dedicate part of their lives to protecting America, be held to an extremely high standard of conduct, and will assuredly receive some degree of firearm training.
Because firearms are so essential to the military’s function, there is considerable emphasis placed on proper instruction, etiquette, and safety. As such, there are strict regulations on how weapons are used on or off a military base, and the penalties when military members violate these rules are extremely harsh. At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we know how complex military regulations can be, especially when civilian criminal charges come into play. We’re here to help you address these matters quickly and with as little impact on your military career and life in general.
If you’re a member of the military, charged with a firearms offense in the Tacoma area, call (253) 518-3643 today and schedule a free consultation with military weapons lawyer Morgan Fletcher Benfield.
Gun Regulations for Active Duty Military Members
There are very precise ways that service members are authorized to possess and use weapons while on active duty. Some of these standards include:
- Possessing Weapons on Base: Military personnel are not generally permitted to carry firearms on a base that haven’t been issued to them, or are not the standard type supplied. However, there is some leeway when it comes to officers because there is precedent in military law that allows officers to be armed at all times.
- Remaining Compliant with State Laws: Active-duty members of the armed forces must abide by state firearm laws when not serving in a military capacity. For example, a soldier may carry a firearm when he or she is serving; however, when that same soldier is off-duty, they must have a valid concealed carry permit to continue wearing their firearm.
The most common weapons violations for members of the military on active duty usually relate to the unauthorized selling of weapons, discharging a firearm under the influence, unauthorized discharge of a weapon, and improper exhibition or brandishing a firearm. These are usually pursued under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which operates independently from the civilian justice system, but still carry serious repercussions, such as:
- Demotion in rank and pay
- Loss of Security Clearance
- Official reprimands included in your military file
- Possible court martial and dishonorable discharge.
Civilian Firearm Charges in Washington
If a service member is charged with a firearm offense, when they are off base or on leave, they will typically face the civilian court system, depending on the circumstances. The state of Washington prosecutes gun cases aggressively and a firearm conviction can lead to some dire penalties, such as losing your gun rights, which has been shown to be a condition of military service, expensive monetary fines, and possible time behind bars, in addition to a mark against your criminal record and any punishments handed down by the military.
These are some of the most common weapon charges & penalties
- Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in the First Degree (RCW 9.41.040)– Punishable as a class B felony a possible 10-year prison sentence and a $20,000 fine, this charge specifically deals with instances of an individual being found in possession of a firearm with a prior violent crime or another weapon related felony.
- Unlawful possession of a Firearm in the Second Degree (RCW 9.41.040)– This is a lesser charge under the statute as a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine and is reserved for offenders in possession of a firearm for less violent previous conviction, including stalking, fourth-degree assault, or violating a protective order.
- Carrying a Concealed Weapon (RCW 9.41.050) – While members of the military are permitted to carry firearms as part of their service, Washington law demands off-duty personnel to comply with the state’s concealed carry laws, which requires a background check and official permit. As a result, to have a legal firearm in your possession, you must have proper licensing and be following state regulations. If you are accused of violating these rules, you will be charged with a simple misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
- Possessing an Illegal Firearm (RCW 9.41.250) – Certain firearms are completely banned by state law. For example, the manufacture, transport, purchase, possession, or sale, of a machine gun, short-barreled rifle, or any of their essential parts is illegal in Washington. This can sometimes lead to very serious charges for a member of the military, who may have occasion to operate them; however, there are exceptions that apply to some members of law enforcement or individuals licensed under federal law. Possession of these weapons is considered a class C felony with penalties up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
- Other Dangerous Weapons (RCW 9.41.250) – These are items considered too dangerous to carry on your person and include items like slingshots, clubs, brass knuckles, spring-loaded knives, daggers, or a suppression device that can be affixed to a firearm. There are some items that may be deemed appropriate for a military function, but off base can result in a gross misdemeanor charge and a possible one-year jail sentence and fines up to $5,000.
How a Tacoma Military Weapons Lawyer Can Help
When an average citizen is faced with a firearm charge in Washington, there is obviously still a lot on the line. But for a member of the military, the stakes become even higher. Using firearms is an important part of your job description and through your training and position, you are held to a higher standard. With a conviction carrying the potential to significantly limit your career and freedom, it’s vital that you review all your options with a military criminal defense lawyer with a track record of success.
By working with a skilled military weapons lawyer, you may be able to challenge the initial search that led to law enforcement discovering the weapon or if your rights were violated during the investigation, evidence could be barred and the charges against you could be reduced or even dismissed. Your lawyer may also be able to show your firearm possession followed state law and your concealed carry permit was in order.
Members of the military need to treat any criminal charge seriously and at The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we will consider every option and are prepared aggressively protect your rights as we pursue the best outcome. If you or a loved one is a service member facing a weapons charge in or around Tacoma, Washington, call (253) 518-3643 right away and schedule a free and confidential consultation.