Illegal firearm law enforcement investigations are often jump-started through cases of other nature, for example, larceny cases. Because these charges are classified as misdemeanors in Virginia, they can bring very serious repercussions for anyone who is charged and subsequently convicted. These cases are not easy to defend, so it is a good idea to have an attorney by your side that knows how these cases typically work. Before proceeding in a case of this nature, it is beneficial to consult with a Virginia gun lawyer and retain them for your case.
There are a variety of common investigative techniques used in a gun case. Gun cases in Virginia are often brought to the attention of law enforcement during grand larceny cases involving larceny with firearms, possession of a firearm by a person who is not permitted to have it, and illegal hunting. Gun cases can also result from illegal attempts to purchase firearms, which means a person is intending to buy a firearm but does not fill out the required paperwork correctly, it could result in a potential felony charge. Other common firearms charges include brandishing a firearm and possession of a concealed weapon. These offenses are Class 1 misdemeanors. Officers investigate firearms cases very seriously and use all investigative techniques available to them to enforce the gun laws.
Typically, if you are under investigation for a gun charge you know it, because you will be contacted by Virginia law enforcement. They will ask you to come in for questioning, to meet with them, or they may even have a search warrant served on your home, vehicle or place of business. There is not a whole lot of “lying in the weeds” when it comes to gun charges by law enforcement officers. If there are illegal guns going around they are quite often going to use very aggressive and straightforward methods to try to retrieve those guns and prosecute the person who is responsible.
In order to search your automobile, a Virginia police officer has to either have probable cause that an offense is being committed or criminal activity is afoot, or they have to have a search warrant. There are a variety of different circumstances in which both of those may play out.
The most common is the probable cause search. The probable cause search may occur during the course of a traffic stop when an officer has some legal reason, such as equipment violation or traffic violation, to pull you over. After they pull you over they may notice something that gives them probable cause to search the rest of the vehicle. Examples include a concealed weapon in plain view, drugs or other illegal material in plain view, the odor of an alcoholic beverage, or the odor of drugs. If they are arresting someone from the vehicle and that person is the owner of the vehicle, then usually a search of the vehicle is conducted and can lead to an arrest as well.
In certain types of events when there is no search warrant or probable cause, a police officer may attempt a consent search. Basically, law enforcement will ask for consent to search your vehicle. Even in gun cases you are always free to refuse this consent without prejudice to you.
There are a variety of circumstances in which a law enforcement officer may inspect a person. Generally, searching a person is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. You have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. There are a couple of noteworthy exceptions that may be applicable.
The most notable exception was carved out in Terry v. Ohio, a United States Supreme Court case, also known as the “Terry stop” or a Terry pat down. Based on the case law that is now the law of the land, a law enforcement officer can pat down a person’s outer garments and outer extremities to check for weapons for a person’s safety and for the officer’s safety. This pat down is likely to reveal a gun because of the shape, size and weight of a firearm. If a person is patted down and the officer detects something that has the shape and characteristics of a firearm, then the officer may be able to conduct a more thorough search pursuant to the Terry doctrine.
If you believe you are under investigation for a gun charge in Loudoun County you should contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney right away. There are a variety of reasons for this. Number one is that you do not want to be a potential defendant, talking to law enforcement and saying things that are incriminating or against your interests.
Law enforcement may appear very cordial and to be looking out for your best interests. However, rest assured that if a law enforcement officer is contacting you about a gun case, he or she is not looking out for you but is looking out for public safety. They are doing their job and trying to enforce the laws of the land.
If you are living outside of the law or have a potential issue that is in a grey area and involving guns, then you want to talk to an attorney right away. A Virginia gun attorney can help you find out what to do to get back on the right side of the law and what you should do if you are contacted by law enforcement.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law