When you commit a felony on federal property or in more than one state, that felony becomes a federal crime. Being that a felony is a crime of the highest level, there are severe penalties that can be pursued both on the state and federal level for a federal felony. If you have been convicted previously of a federal felony and you are caught with a firearm, you are in violation of North Carolina state law as well as federal law.
At Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh, we are Raleigh gun charge lawyers who have a depth of experience in defending federal and state felons charged with possessing a firearm. In this article, we review the definition of a felony, discuss the difference between having a conviction of a federal felony and a state felony, as well as any differences when you are in possession of a firearm with one of these crime convictions.
What is a Felony?
North Carolina’s state statutory definition of a felony says that a crime is a felony if it was a felony at common law or is classified by the state statute. In North Carolina, felonies are divided into ten categories–from Class A, the most serious, to Class I, the least serious.
The Most Serious Offenses
Class A felonies are the most serious. These include murder in the first degree and the unlawful use of a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon of mass destruction. The maximum penalty for these offenses are either life in prison or death. Other high-level felonies that have severe penalties of years of imprisonment include:
- First-degree sexual offense
- Second-degree murder
- Second-degree rape
- First-degree kidnapping
- Armed robbery
- Voluntary manslaughter
Mid-level offenses include Class E, F, or G crimes. These offenses vary in punishment from intensive and prolonged probation to long prison sentences. Some examples of these felonies are:
- Child abuse
- Assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer
- Common law robbery (using force or a threat of force)
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Arson of public buildings
- Habitual impaired driving
The lowest levels of felonies include Class H and Class I and typically do not carry a mandatory sentence that requires jail time. Many times, probation, house arrest, community service or substance abuse counseling are imposed as punishment instead of jail time. These offenses include:
- Habitual misdemeanor assault
- Breaking or entering a building with felonious intent
- Larceny of property worth more than $1,000
- First-degree forgery
- Escaping from state prison
- Hit and run resulting in injury
The least serious offenses are Class I. These include:
- Possession of marijuana
- Financial transaction card theft
- Forgery of notes, checks, or securities
- Breaking or entering motor vehicles
What is a Federal Crime?
A federal crime is often one that crosses state lines, takes place on federal property, or is an offense that Congress has passed laws on. When the crime violates U.S. federal legal codes, it is a federal crime. A federal crime can include:
- Drug offenses
- Sex crimes
- Weapons charges
- Theft, fraud, and white-collar crimes
- Murder and violent crimes
Here are some of the crimes that the federal government has jurisdiction over:
- A crime that occurs on federal land or that involves federal officers, such as a murder that takes place in a national forest or on an Indian reservation, or an assault on a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent.
- A crime that involves fraud, deception, or misrepresentation on the federal government or one of its agencies, such as federal tax fraud or Medicaid fraud.
- A crime where the defendant crosses state lines such as a person takes a kidnapping victim from one state to another.
- A crime that involves immigration and customs violations such as importing child pornography or international human trafficking.
A federal crime is tried in federal court with convictions leading to sentencing in federal prison. A federal crime is more serious and the prosecution conducts an in-depth investigation against the perpetrator. Due to the complexities of federal laws, you should seek counsel from our federal lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh to guide you through the process for your case when charged with possession of a firearm.
Differences Between a Federal Felony and North Carolina State Felony
The majority of crimes involve state prosecutions for violations of state law–crimes such as murder, robbery, burglary, arson, theft, and rape. State legislators regulate conduct through laws and the state court has jurisdiction to decide the case. Therefore, most state crimes are in the state’s criminal or penal code.
Federal criminal laws are directly relative to a federal or national issue like interstate trafficking in contraband, federal tax fraud, gun charges, mail fraud, or crimes committed on federal property. There are fewer classes of federal crimes because federal lawmakers can only pass laws where there is some federal or national interest involved. For example, counterfeiting U.S. currency is a federal offense since it is the federal government’s responsibility to print money.
There are crimes that are solely under federal law. However, many criminal acts are crimes under both federal and state law such as bank robbery and kidnapping. These crimes can be prosecuted in either federal or state court.
Possession of a Firearm After a Federal Felony Conviction
After a felony conviction, regardless of whether it was delivered in a state or federal court, it is illegal for that person to possess a firearm or ammunition. If you are a felon in possession of a firearm in North Carolina, either in your vehicle, on your person, or in your residence, you are charged with a Class G felony. This felony classification has a sentence of between eight and 31 months in prison. If you have multiple felonies on your record, you can face even harsher penalties.
Possession of a firearm can also be a federal offense. It is a Federal crime for anyone who has been convicted of a felony offense to possess a firearm in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce.
It must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the felon:
- Knowingly possessed a firearm in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, and
- Prior to possessing the firearm had been convicted of a felony
“Interstate or foreign commerce” includes the movement of a firearm from one state to another or between the U.S. and any foreign country.
Contact Us If You Have Been Charged with Possession of a Firearm and You Are a Convicted Federal Felon
If you are a felon who has been previously convicted of a federal crime and you are charged with possession of a firearm, you need to seek immediate legal representation. Don’t trust your future to just anyone. You need our experienced Eastern District of NC federal attorney and a criminal defense team like ours at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh. We have years of experience fighting for people’s rights. We can give you the time and attention your case deserves and will apply our knowledge to develop a defense strategy for your specific situation. Call us at (919) 845-6688 or complete our free case review contact form.