Charged With Carrying a Concealed Weapon but was Unaware the Weapon was in My Car

Carrying a concealed weapon in Michigan is a felony offense that carries up to 5 years in prison, up to $2500 in fines, possible probation/parole with conditions, and forfeiture of the weapon.  A conviction for the same can affect your ability to lawfully purchase and/or possess firearms.  This crime can also be prosecuted as a federal law violation depending on the circumstances.

In many accusations concerning carrying a concealed weapon the accusation begins with a traffic stop.  The car is stopped for some sort of traffic violation such as speeding, defective equipment, a bad license plate, etc..  The police officer approaches and asks the driver for his or her name, registration and proof of insurance.  During the stop a search of the vehicle occurs due to the driver’s consent, the officer seeing in plain view some sort of contraband, smelling the odor of marijuana, a search incident to an arrest (driving on a suspended license, an active warrant, open intoxicants in the motor vehicle, etc.) etc..  During the course of the search a weapon is discovered.

What happens next?

In Michigan it is illegal to transport a weapon in a motor vehicle, with some exceptions.  A firearm or bb gun should be unloaded, in a case, and placed in the trunk of the vehicle and not accessible to anyone in the vehicle.  A knife used for hunting should also be in a case and stored in the trunk of the vehicle and not easily accessible to anyone in the vehicle.  If the occupant of the vehicle has a concealed weapons permit, he or she should immediately disclose that to the police officer involved in the traffic stop.  If there are any restrictions on the license to carry a concealed weapon, those restrictions must be followed.  If the weapon is a pistol, the pistol must be licensed.

When a firearm is or other deadly weapon is found contrary to what the law allows, the police officer makes an arrest, and writes a police report.  Thereafter, the prosecution determines what, if any charge, should be brought.  The totality of the circumstances are considered.  The following is a partial list of circumstances that may be considered by a prosecutor: statements made by the Defendant and other occupants to the car; the type of weapon found (for example, a there can never be lawful possession of a short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle); the location where the weapon was found; the location of ammunition or other contraband.  If ammunition is found in a cupholder, the prosecution is likely to believe the driver/occupant of the vehicle was aware of a gun in the back seat.  If there are drugs found in the car, the prosecution may believe the weapon was related to drug possession or drug distribution).  If the driver/occupant of the vehicle has a prior record concerning weapons violations, or is a known gang member, a prosecutor will likely conclude that the weapon was knowingly possessed by the driver/occupant.

One potential defense to carrying a concealed weapon is lack of knowledge.  Sometimes a passenger or other occupant of the vehicle may place a weapon under a seat, in the back pocket of a seat, in a jacket or bag found in the vehicle or other location in the car that the driver or another occupant of the vehicle was unaware.  The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant knowingly carried the weapon.  Merely being present in a vehicle where a pistol or weapon was found is not enough to make someone guilty.

When accused of a crime, your first step should be to immediately contact a reputable, skilled lawyer to defend you.  My recommendation is attorney Daniel Hilf of the law firm of Hilf & Hilf, PLC.  He has the ability to explore the entire case, determine the best possible defenses, and to do what is necessary to help you receive the best possible outcome given the facts of your case.