Illegal Firearm Possession: Penalties and Defense Strategies

While South Carolina protects citizens’ right to responsible gun ownership, the state also places restrictions on this right. The consequences for illegally owning and carrying a firearm can be severe. This blog delves into the intricacies of illegal gun possession in South Carolina, exploring the penalties involved and potential defense strategies.

If you are charged with a gun offense, hiring a skilled Greenville criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights is crucial.

Understanding Illegal Gun Possession

The term “illegal gun possession” encompasses a range of offenses in South Carolina, each carrying distinct penalties.

Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon

This misdemeanor involves possessing a handgun without a valid Concealed Weapon Permit (CWP) in a public place or within a vehicle not secured in a closed compartment. Penalties can include up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both.

Possession of a Stolen Firearm 

This felony carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person

This felony applies to individuals convicted of certain crimes, domestic violence offenses, or subject to protective orders. Penalties can range from five years to life in prison, depending on the specifics of the case.

Unlawful Possession of a Silencer or Suppressor 

This felony carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Illegal Modification of a Firearm 

This felony covers altering a firearm’s function or appearance in ways not authorized by federal law. The sentence can reach ten years in prison.

Factors Influencing Penalties

The severity of the charges and potential penalties depend on various factors.

  • Type of firearm: Possession of certain restricted firearms, like short-barreled shotguns or assault weapons, carries harsher penalties.
  • Prior convictions: Aggravated penalties apply to individuals with prior firearm-related offenses.
  • Circumstances of possession: Possession near schools, government buildings, or while committing another crime can lead to enhanced charges.

Mitigating Factors and Plea Bargains

If a plea bargain is in your best interest, a Greenville criminal defense lawyer will work to reach an agreement with the prosecution.

  • Clean Record and Community Involvement: Demonstrating a clean criminal record and strong community ties can work in your favor and potentially lead to leniency in sentencing.
  • Rehabilitation and Mental Health Issues: If you have mental health issues or have undergone rehabilitation programs, presenting this evidence can help mitigate the severity of the sentence or lead to alternative sentencing options.

possessing a gun without license is a serious offense

Potential Defenses

Facing illegal gun possession charges in South Carolina can be a stressful and confusing ordeal. While the penalties can be severe, a skilled Greenville defense attorney can explore various strategies to build a strong case and potentially mitigate the consequences.

Let’s delve deeper into some key defense options.

Challenging the Legality of the Stop or Search

Fourth Amendment Violations: If the police stopped or searched you without a warrant or probable cause, the evidence they obtained may be excluded from court. This can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case, potentially leading to dismissal or reduced charges.

Pretextual Stops: If the police stop you for a minor traffic violation and then use that as an opportunity to search for firearms without proper justification, the stop may be deemed pretextual and the evidence suppressed.

Chain of Custody Issues

If the chain of custody for the firearm is unclear or mishandled, the defense can argue that the evidence is unreliable and inadmissible in court. This can raise reasonable doubt and potentially lead to an acquittal.

Lack of Knowledge

If you were unaware of the firearm’s presence, especially if hidden in your car or belongings without your knowledge, a defense of lack of knowledge can be pursued. Proving this requires strong evidence and witness testimony.

Mistaken Identity 

If you resemble someone suspected of firearm possession, it’s crucial to establish your identity and challenge the mistaken identification.

Inoperable Firearm

If the firearm was inoperable or incapable of firing, it may not fall under the definition of illegal possession. This defense requires expert testimony and evidence to demonstrate the firearm’s non-functioning state.


If you can demonstrate with verifiable evidence that you were not at the scene of the alleged offense when the firearm was discovered, this can be a powerful defense strategy.

Alternative Explanations for Possession

If there’s a plausible explanation for why you had the firearm, even if it belongs to someone else or was found in a public area, presenting this alternative narrative can raise reasonable doubt and potentially lead to a more favorable outcome.

Equal Protection and Due Process Violations

If the prosecution’s case or the application of the law seems discriminatory or lacks due process, the defense can challenge it on constitutional grounds

Contact a Greenville Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Navigating the complexities of illegal gun possession in South Carolina requires a comprehensive understanding of the laws, potential penalties, and available defense strategies. Legal counsel is essential in such situations.

If you have been charged with the illegal possession of a firearm, contact Baldwin Law at 864-630-8503 for a free case evaluation.

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