Criminal Offences

Unauthorised Possession of Firearms

Residents in NSW who wish to possess a firearm must have a firearms licence and register the weapon with authorities. Failing to do so, will result in the criminal charge of possessing a firearm as per section 7A of the Firearms Act 1996. This Act states that:

  1. A person must not possess or use a firearm unless the person is authorised to do so by a licence or permit.
  2. Without limiting the operation of subsection 1, a person who is the holder of a licence is guilty of an offence under this section if:
    1. Uses a firearm for any purpose otherwise than in connection with the purpose established by the person as being the genuine reason for possessing or using the firearm, or
    2. Contravenes any condition of the licence.

Additionally, if the firearm in question is prohibited, the offender is liable to harsher penalties under section 7 of the Firearms Act 1996. It is stated that:

  1. A person must not possess or use a pistol or prohibited firearm unless the person is authorised to do so by a licence or permit.
  2. Without limiting the operation of subsection 1, a person who is the holder of a licence is guilty of an offence under this section if the person:
    1. Uses a pistol or prohibited firearm for any purpose otherwise than in connection with the purpose established by the person as being the genuine reason for possessing or using the pistol or firearm, or
    2. Contravenes any condition of the licence
  3. If, on the trial for an offence under this section, the jury is not satisfied that the accused is guilty of the offence but is satisfied on the evidence that the person is guilty of an offence under section 7A, it may find the person not guilty of the offence but guilty of an offence under section 7A, and the accused is liable to punishment accordingly.

Furthermore, these offences can be aggravated, whereby an individual unlawfully possesses 3 or more firearms. This offence is referred to as unauthorised possession of firearms in aggravated circumstances and is found under section 51D of the Firearms Act 1996 which states that:

  1. A person who is in possession of more than 3 firearms is guilty of an offence under this subsection if:
    1. The firearms are not registered, and
    2. The person is not authorised by a licence or permit to possess the firearms.
  1. A person who is in possession of more than 3 firearms any one of which is a pistol or prohibited firearm is guilty of an offence under this subsection if:
    1. The firearms are not registered, and
    2. The person is not authorised by a licence or permit to possess the firearms.

To best understand this offence, it is also crucial to determine what constitutes a firearm in NSW law. Section 4 of the Firearms Act 1996 states:

A firearm means a gun, or any other weapon, that is (or at any time was) capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive, and includes a blank-fire firearm, or an air gun. A prohibited firearm includes rifles, machine guns and shotguns.

Under section 4c of the Firearms Act 1996, a prohibited pistol is defined as:

  1. A pistol with a calibre of more than .38 inches,
  2. A self-loading pistol with a barrel length of less than 120mm; and
  3. A revolver with a barrel length of less than 100mm.

Evidently, the laws surrounding firearms are complex. Should you or someone you know be facing charges of unauthorised possession of firearms, do not hesitate to contact Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders to schedule a FREE and confidential consultation.

PENALTIES

There are a broad range of charges associated with possession of firearms, all of which vary in severity with the penalties adjusted accordingly. The maximum penalties associated with unauthorised possession of firearms are found in the Firearms Act 1996 and are outlined below:

  • Section 7A – Unauthorised possession or use of firearms generally: Imprisonment for 5 years
  • Section 7 – Unauthorised possession or use of prohibited firearms: Imprisonment for 14 years
  • Section 51D 1 – Unauthorised possession or use of firearms in aggravated circumstances: Imprisonment for 10 years
  • Section 51D 2 – Unauthorised possession or use of prohibited firearms in aggravated circumstances: Imprisonment for 20 years

Although lengthy gaol times could be imposed should you be found guilty of such an offence, Crimes Statistics Australia revealed that from 2015-2016, only 17% of firearms offences resulted in a full time custodial sentence. This means that the Court has the ability to enforce other punishments such as a fine, home detention, Community Corrections Order (CCO) or Intensive Corrections Order (CSO) in appropriate situations. To determine whether an alternative penalty is sufficient punishment, Courts will deliberate on an individual’s character, personal circumstances, previous criminal history and the nature surrounding the offence on a case by case basis.

For the most accurate and honest advice pertinent to your specific case, please contact our dedicated criminal defence lawyers to schedule a conditional and FREE first consultation.

GUILTY

In order to be found guilty of unauthorised possession of firearms, the prosecution will have to prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you had a firearm in your possession or you used a firearm; and
  • You did not have firearms licence to authorise the possession of these weapons

If your charges are relevant to a more serious offence, the prosecution will also have to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The firearm in your possession is prohibited; and/or
  • You had 3 or more firearms in your possession

If the prosecution is able to successfully establish these allegations, it is likely that the above penalties will be enforced. If you tend to concur with the allegations against you, it may be wise to consider pleading guilty to the crime. In this instance, the case will proceed to sentencing whereby the Court will decide the appropriate punishment relevant to your specific offence.

However, pleading guilty often warrants more successful outcomes as opposed to being found guilty otherwise. Submitting a guilty plea to the Court often demonstrates regret and remorse towards the unlawful activities that you participated in. As a result, it is not uncommon for the Court to impose less serious penalties and alternative punishments as discussed above.

If you or some you know has been charged with unauthorised possession of firearms, contact our criminal defence lawyers for a FREE consultation.

NOT GUILTY

Alternatively, you have the option to plead not guilty to the allegations made against you. If you choose to do so, the case will proceed to be heard before the Court, in which the prosecution will aim to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were involved in the crime. If they are successful, you will be found guilty of unauthorised possession of firearms and will liable to the above punishments.

However, at Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders, we are experienced criminal defence lawyers in Sydney with experience in defending similar cases. In order to achieve the best possible outcome for your case, we will aim to inflict doubt and disprove the evidence provided by the prosecution by using a relevant defence strategy.

If our criminal lawyers are successful, the Court may completely dismiss the allegations against you, in which no penalties will apply. In other instances, our defence strategies only provide a partial offence, whereby charges will be downgraded and less severe penalties will be faced. Despite this, a partial defence is much more successful outcome as opposed to facing the maximum penalty of authorised firearm possession.

For relevant advice in relation to whether you should plead guilty or not guilty to charges of unauthorised possession of firearms, please do not hesitate to contact our Sydney based criminal law firm for a FREE first consultation.

THE DEFENCE

Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders is home to some of Sydney’s best criminal defence lawyers. In order to quash the allegations made against you in relation to  the unauthorised possession of firearms, our expertly qualified criminal defence lawyers may argue the following legal defences.

Duress: Arises in situations where unlawful coercion has been used to persuade the accused to the criminal activity and would not usually be something they would do if the threats had not been present. Bodily harm or death is often the most used threats that will coerce a defendant to participate in an unlawful activity.

Necessity: Although typically difficult to prove, the defence of necessity can be argued in situations where it is found that the accused was in imminent danger by either human or natural forces. Our criminal defence lawyers will need to establish that activity was only undertaken in order to avoid consequences that were deemed as “irreparable evil”. It must also be proven that the accused was in “imminent peril” and that they had no other alternatives to avoid the impending threat.

WHICH COURT?

Charges relating to the unauthorised possession of firearms are generally dealt with in the Local Court. However, in some circumstances, an election may be made by either yourself or the prosecution for the matter to be heard before a District Court whereby the penalties incurred are generally more severe.

At Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders, we have extensive experience in representing clients at Local, District and Supreme Courts. Regardless of where you matter is dealt with, you can be confident that our criminal defence lawyers are highly committed, dedicated and proficient to handle your case.

If you or someone you know is facing charges of unauthorised possession of firearms, call our expert team now for a FREE confidential consultation.