During the 2015 fiscal year, the Justice Department statistics show that the government reported 6,002 new weapons convictions. This is a decrease of 5.8 percent from the previous fiscal year. This number is down from 7,101 convictions five years ago and has dropped by 34.8% since 2005.
Those numbers may be on the decline, but every day people face weapons charges across a wide spectrum of offenses, the most common being possession of a deadly weapon.
What is a deadly weapon?
When thinking about what a deadly weapon is, you might think of guns, knives, brass knuckles, throwing stars, and explosives. And while these items are considered deadly weapons by themselves, anything that can be used to intentionally harm another person can be considered a deadly weapon.
When you walk out of your house to go to work or to meet up with some friends, you may be carrying a weapon without even knowing it. That’s because many common household objects can be considered weapons under certain circumstances.
Since the dawn of time, people have found ways to fashion deadly weapons from just about anything, including something as simple as a newspaper. And if you happen to be involved in an incident of potentially violent or threatening nature, or even if you’ve committed a non-violent crime, then any object you have on your person could be considered a weapon.
You don’t have to use a weapon to be charged
Whether or not you face weapons charges depends on the specifics of your situation. The determination is up to the officer who arrests you. And if you have anything in your possession that can be used to create harm, it can be considered a weapon – from a pencil to a pocket knife to your steel toed boots. In this sense, you don’t have to actually use an item as a weapon in order to be charged with possessing a weapon.
You could walk out of your house carrying a pocket knife, end up in a fist fight with another person, never once touch your pocket knife but end up facing weapons charges just for carrying it on your person. Even if you had a rock in your pocket that your 8 year old kid gave you, that could be considered a weapon as well. It sounds unfair, but it happens to people all the time.
Legal weapons aren’t an exception
Although some weapons, like brass knuckles, nunchucks, and spring-loaded switchblades are legal in Indiana, many weapons aren’t. For example, throwing stars and ballistic knives are illegal. But just because a weapon is legal, doesn’t mean you can’t be charged for carrying it.
Be selective about what you carry on your person
It’s important to be diligent about what you choose to carry on your person when you leave the privacy of your own home. You may not ever intend to cause harm to another person, but if you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you’re caught with an item that could be considered a deadly weapon, it’s going to be difficult to prove that you weren’t intending to use it.
Don’t risk it near schools
You may not think anything of carrying a pocket knife with you to pick up your kids from school, and while it probably wouldn’t become an issue, it’s best to make a conscious decision to leave it at home. You don’t want to give the school any reason to press charges. Schools have a tendency to consider just about anything a weapon, and are known to suspend and even expel students for the most unlikely situations.
In 2000, a middle school student named Ashley Smith was suspended for ten days when the administration noticed her Tweety Bird wallet had a chain. Although she and other students were shown items that were not allowed on campus, the chain they were shown was much longer and thicker than the one attached to her wallet.
If schools are quick to suspend and expel students for possessing items that aren’t intended to be weapons, you don’t want to risk bringing even a pocket knife with you to pick up your kids.
In Indiana, you need a license to carry a handgun
Unless you have a concealed carry permit, it’s a bad idea to carry a concealed weapon when you’re out in public. And in Indiana, you can’t carry a handgun on your person or even in your car without the proper license. Although it’s normally a misdemeanor to carry a handgun without a license, it becomes a class C felony if you are caught with a handgun on or around school property.
There are also many other circumstances that will turn that misdemeanor into a felony. For example, if you’ve already been convicted of carrying a handgun without a license, it’s considered a felony no matter where you carry the weapon. And if you’re a convicted felon, you can’t have a handgun at all. If you do, it’s an automatic felony.
What to do if you’re facing weapons charges
Regardless of your situation – whether you’ve actually used a weapon, have threatened to use a weapon, or are facing charges for possessing a deadly weapon – there are some important things you need to know.
If you’re facing charges of a Class A, B, C, or D felony and you’re convicted, you could face anywhere from 1-50 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. That’s a serious consequence, and it’s not a situation you should deal with on your own. That’s why you should contact a lawyer right away.
Having a lawyer on your side is the best way to find out if you have mitigating factors in your situation that might lower your sentence. For example, if you don’t have a prior criminal history, nobody was harmed or threatened, or the crime occurred under circumstances that are not likely to occur again, then your sentence could be mitigated.
This means the court will take into account all of the good qualities about your character and the specific situation, and the judge can use that information in order to lower the sentence you receive.
If you’re in a situation facing weapons charges and don’t know what to do, contact Rowdy Williams for a free consultation to determine what steps you should take next. Don’t risk trying to handle it on your own. Talk to a lawyer who wants to help and knows the law.