Possession of a Firearm/Knife During the Commission of a Felony
While Georgia's gun laws are pretty lenient when it comes to "carrying," there is definitely LESS leniency when it comes to possessing a weapon during the commission of a felony. Pursuant to OCGA 16-11-106(b), a person who has on or within one's reach of his person a firearm or knife (with a blade larger than 3 inches) during the commission of or attempt to commit ANY crime against another, ANY crime involving the unlawful entry into or theft of a building or vehicle or any felony drug charge.
For a first conviction, the maximum punishment for this offense is five (5) years CONSECUTIVELY to the underlying felony offense. This means that the sentence for this charge cannot run concurrently to (or at the same time as) the sentence for the underlying felony. Upon a second conviction, the maximum punishment is 10 years (consecutively, not to be suspended or probated). Lastly, under certain circumstances (if a person has a previous conviction for firearm-related felony or other violent felony convictions), the punishment is 15 years to be served consecutively.
Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon
Once a person is labeled a "convicted felon," being in possession of a weapon and/or attempting to buy/sell weapons are BIG NO-NOs in the eyes of Georgia law. If a person possesses, receives, transports, or attempts to obtain a firearm as a convicted felon or while on first-offender probation, receive or transport a firearm after being convicted of a felony or while on first offender probation, they face one (1) to five (5) years in prison. If the person's underlying conviction is a forcible felony, then there is a mandatory sentence of five (5) years.
Carrying Weapon in Unauthorized Location
In Georgia, gun laws are relatively relaxed. Unless a property owner prohibits individuals from possessing weapons on their property, a person who is licensed to carry or a person exempted pursuant to OCGA 16-11-126(e) may carry a weapon in every location in the state, except: 1) government buildings (unless subject to exemption) 2) courthouses 3) jails/prisons 4) places of worship unless otherwise authorized to do so 5) state-run mental health facilities 6) nuclear power facilities and 7) within 150 ft of a voting/polling place. Additionally, it is unlawful to carry a weapon within a school safety zone as well as on any form of school-related transportation. OCGA 16-11-127. It is a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 12 months incarceration and a $1,000 fine. That said, the maximum punishment increases when a person is charged with carrying in a school zone, especially without a license to carry.
At Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport, more firearms are confiscated during TSA security screening than any other airport in the country. Historically, at Hartsfield-Jackson, when a TSA officer would find a traveler's firearm during security screening, they would detain the traveler, confiscate the firearm, and immediately notify local law enforcement. Before July 1, 2014, regardless of whether the traveler had a permit to carry the firearm, the traveler would be arrested and charged with this midsdemeanor.
Since July 1, 2014, however, Georgia residents with licenses to carry firearms are permitted to carry their firearm in many public places, including the entrance and waiting area in the Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Obviously, this permission does NOT extend to the airport's terminals due to federal law but TSA officers at security screening will no longer call Clayton County Police Department if the traveler can show proof of their permit to carry.
Instead of calling the police, TSA will give the traveler the following options: 1) check the firearm as luggage (if properly secured in a hard case), 2) return the firearm to their vehicle (if they parked it at the airport), 3) hand the firearm to an individual who is licensed to carry in Georgia and not traveling via the airport, or, in the event that no other option works out, 4) forfeit the firearm permanently to TSA.
Whether the traveler has a license to carry a firearm or not, TSA will still pursue a civil case against them. Like before, TSA will investigate the circumstances of the case and assess a civil penalty ranging from $500 to $10,000. TSA may also temporarily suspend a traveler's "TSA Pre-Check."
It is important to remember that Georgia's new gun laws only affect Georgia residents with valid licenses to carry their firearm(s). All other travelers carrying guns in the Hartsfield-Jackson airport remain out of luck when it comes to TSA calling Clayton County Police Department. Those individuals will be arrested and charged like all gun-carrying travelers were charged prior to July 1, 2014.
Because weapon charges are extremely serious and carry significant prison time, it is important to review the circumstances of your case with an experienced attorney to best understand your options. There are many ways to defend against convictions for these charges. Call us today at 404-615-7588 to discuss your legal situation!