Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Firearm Possession in Massachusetts

A few snowballs thrown at a Massachusetts police officer led to the discovery of a stolen AK-47 and the arrest of a 30-year-old man from East Boston. Law enforcement responded to Havre Street in East Boston for shots fired in February. After searching the area for ballistics evidence, the attention of law enforcement was drawn to a man standing on a fourth-floor balcony. 

Moments later, snowballs were thrown from the balcony at police officers. This action prompted law enforcement to go to the fourth floor and knock on the door of the apartment where the occupant had shut himself inside. Law enforcement claims that they then peacefully entered the apartment and observed an unsecured AK-47 and a 12-gauge shotgun, and then located a 9 mm Taurus handgun. 

The AK-47 was later determined to not be registered to the man, who had a valid firearm license. Instead, the AK-47 was reported stolen in Holbrook in 2016. After investigating the weapon, the man was also determined to have discharged his handgun without causing injury to police officers. The man was arraigned in East Boston District Court on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm as well as discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, assault, and improper storage of a firearm. 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires individuals to carry a license to carry to purchase, possess, and even carry a firearm. Many people, however, have uncertainties about what possession means. This means that if you have a firearm on your person or in your pocket, you are in possession of it. The law refers to this as actual possession. Many people, however, have questions about how possessions are viewed if there is a firearm in your vehicle or if someone in your house owns a gun. Fortunately, owning a gun is not the equivalent of possessing a gun in the eyes of the law. Consider the following important elements about firearm possession in Massachusetts.

Constructive Possession

Massachusetts law does not require you to actually physically possess a firearm to be found in possession of the weapon. Instead, the law also acknowledges “constructive possession” if a person has knowledge of an object, the ability to exercise control over the object, and the intent to exercise control over the object.

Car Cases Can Get Complicated

In situations in which a person is riding in a car with a firearm is involved, complex possession questions can arise. For example, in the 2018 case of Commonwealth v. Summers, a defendant was the only occupant in a backseat and was charged with possession of a firearm that was inside the backpack on the floor of the backseat of the car. The court, in this case, noted that because the defendant was the sole passenger and because the backpack was also in the back seat, the individual was in constructive possession of the firearm. 

In the 2013 case of Commonwealth v. Romero, however, a Massachusetts case considered firearm possession when the defendant was in his own vehicle and a passenger had a gun. The court found that the defendant in the case was not in constructive possession of the firearm. The defendant in this case owned the car and knew the firearm was in his vehicle. The defendant’s friend had offered to let the defendant hold the gun, though. Because the car’s owner did not show signs of intending to control the gun, he was determined to not be in constructive possession of the firearm.

Firearms in Car Trunks

A firearm in your trunk will likely be found to be in your possession. In the case of Commonwealth v. Jeune, the defendant was driving and had keys to open the trunk at the time he was stopped by police. Law enforcement found drugs in the man’s vehicle, but because the defendant had keys that opened the trunk, the court held that the defendant was in constructive possession of the gun.

Obtain the Services of a Compassionate Firearm Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been charged with a firearm-related offense, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.