Can You Be Criminally Charged For Failing To Report A Stolen Gun?
Whether you're a firearm enthusiast or just have one or two guns for home protection, you're likely already taking safety precautions with your collection. Locking your unloaded firearms in a gun safe and taking other security measures to limit outside access can go a long way toward keeping you and your guns safe. However, theft can still happen -- and if your gun is later used to commit a crime, you may find yourself facing steep criminal charges, or even jail time. Read on to learn more about how this situation is handled in most jurisdictions, as well as how you can defend yourself if you have been criminally charged.
What criminal liability attaches to someone who has a firearm stolen?
In general, as long as you timely report the theft of your firearm to law enforcement, you won't face any criminal penalties -- even if the gun is later used to commit a crime. However, if you fail to report the theft after becoming aware of it, you may face charges ranging from a criminal misdemeanor to a low-level felony.
In order to establish your guilt, the prosecutor or district attorney will need to show that not only were you aware that the firearm had been stolen by a specific person, but that you failed to report this either in an attempt to recover the gun yourself or because you were afraid of criminal penalties being levied against the individual who stole the gun. This is especially common in situations in which a child or other family member is believed to be responsible for the theft.
How can you defend yourself against this type of charge?
In many cases, you may be able to negotiate a favorable plea agreement by providing evidence to the prosecutor that will help convict the person who stole the gun and committed the crime. If your evidence is strong enough, the charges against you may be completely dismissed.
If you are unable to negotiate a plea agreement and plan to go to trial, you or your attorney should request a trial by jury, rather than a "bench trial" (trial before the judge). Often, juries are more sympathetic to situations in which an individual was reluctant to report a gun theft to avoid the arrest of a close family member, and may be inclined to enter a verdict of not guilty, even if some of the evidence strongly suggests your guilt.
Speak with defense attorneys like Gerstenzang O'Hern Sills & Gerstenzang for more information.