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Criminal Weapon Possession on School Grounds: New York Penal Code § 265.01-a

Criminal weapon possession on school grounds is a Class E felony in the State of New York. A “school” is defined as a university, college or school. The term “school” does not apply to the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, forestry lands or to a school bus. A person has committed a violation of New York Penal Code 265.01-a when they have in their possession a shotgun, rifle or firearm on property designated a school without prior authorization from school leaders. The laws related to criminal possession of firearms are intended to discourage unlawful weapons in places of learning.

Hypothetical Case

Suppose a college student was suspected of storing a large amount of cocaine in his dormitory room. Police officers obtained a search warrant and gained access to the student’s on-campus residence. While searching the quarters, the officers discovered several baggies of cocaine in a shoebox in the student’s closet. They also found a handgun that was loaded with live bullets in the student’s desk drawer. The police arrested the student on charges of possession of a controlled substance, as well as criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds.

Possible Defenses

Lack of probable cause. In the State of New York, probable cause must be present in order to perform a search of an individual’s person, residence, home, car, office, or other property. Probable cause may be implied when law enforcement officers have reason to believe that a crime was committed. If probable cause cannot be demonstrated, materials and property found during the unsubstantiated search, such as the weapon in the above case, may not be admitted as evidence, removing a key element in support of the prosecuting attorney’s case.

Other lines of defense. Experienced and resourceful defense lawyers who have led many defense strategies to protect the interests of clients charged with various types of weapons possession may have other defensive tactics to bring to bear that could force a dismissal or reduction of charges. Any of the evidence presented by the prosecuting attorney may be challenged in an attempt to weaken the prosecuting attorney’s case. For example, the prosecuting attorney must prove that the weapon was in the possession of the defendant and that the defendant was on school grounds.

Possible Sentence

Imprisonment. Criminal weapon possession on school grounds is a Class E felony. If found guilty, the maximum possible sentence is four years in prison. Depending on the details of the felony and if the convicted person had no prior criminal history, the judge may decide on a more lenient prison sentence.

Probation. The presiding judge may also add a probation term of five years. The convicted person must report regularly to the probation officer, disassociate themselves from known criminals, and refrain from owning firearms. If the convicted individual does not follow the probationary instructions of the court, the probation may be converted into time behind bars, instead.

Monetary Fine. The presiding judge has the option of also adding a monetary fine as part of the sentence.

NY Penal Code Section 265.01-a: Criminal Weapon Possession on School Grounds

To recap, a person is guilty of criminal weapon possession on school grounds when:

  1. That person knowingly and unlawfully has in his or her possession a firearm, shotgun, or rifle;
  2. That person is in or on a building or grounds that are used for educational purposes, such as universities, colleges and schools. The exception to this law is when the grounds are a school bus or forestry lands that are owned or maintained by the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry; and
  3. That person does not have written authorization from school leaders to have possession of the weapon on school grounds.
Lawyer to Defend Against the Charge of Criminal Weapon Possession on School Grounds

To effectively defend against a charge of criminal weapon possession on school grounds, it is critical to engage a well-qualified and experienced defense attorney firm with a history of successfully protecting their clients’ interests and reputations. An effective defense lawyer will prevent your spending time in jail or becoming negatively affected because of a permanent criminal record.

The Barry C. Weiss P.C. law firm aggressively defends persons charged with criminal weapon possession on school grounds, as well as other weapons and firearm misdemeanors and felony crimes in the State of New York, including criminal possession of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal sale of a firearm. The Elliot Adler PC law firm is comprised of a team of highly skilled and experienced attorneys who are committed to providing the best defense possible for their clients.

We can be reached at (212) 785-1300 or to schedule a no-obligation, free legal consultative meeting to evaluate your case.

Related Offenses

For additional information, refer to the following sections of the New York Penal Code:

  1. Unlawfully possessing a weapon on school grounds: Section 265.06
  2. Criminal firearm possession: Section 265.01-b
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