Recently, two policemen faced criminal charges in connection to a physical altercation with a single male suspect.
One interesting aspect of this case, as reported by the New York Times, is that one of the officers was charged with criminal possession of a weapon as a result of the events that transpired. These charges could have a significant impact on the manner in which New York's criminal handgun possession laws are interpreted in the future, especially if the officer is convicted.
Although the Times is not clear on this point, it is likely that the gun in question was the officer's registered handgun for use in the line of duty. A police officer carrying a legally licensed handgun to perform his duties seems like the most obvious example of an appropriately registered handgun, and the possession is as far as possible from "criminal."
It was how the officer used the gun that gave rise to the criminal possession charges. The officer allegedly used the gun to hit the man the officers were pursuing, knocking out two of his teeth. According to the article, the district attorney brought the illegal possession charges because "the weapon was used to inflict injury."
The law usually distinguishes between weapon possession crimes and violent gun crimes. Whether or not a gun is possessed legally is a different question than whether the gun was used illegally.
Will the charges in this case result in a significant change in the court's interpretation of handgun possession laws? If a police officer can be charged with illegal possession of a handgun regarding the gun used to fulfill his duties as an officer, what impact will this ruling have on every other owner of a properly licensed and registered handgun?
The hope is that the gun rights of New Yorkers are not eroded through case law precedent, but only time will tell. At Aidala & Bertuna, our criminal defense attorneys will be staying up to date on the impact that this case could have on our clients' gun possession rights.