Unauthorized Firearms on Military Installations

So you are going onto Fort Campbell. You pull up to the check point with your ID ready. The MP tells you that you have been selected for a random vehicle search. You suddenly remember that you have your handgun in your vehicle. You have a carry permit but the weapon is not registered with the military base which means that you are not authorized to bring it on Ft. Campbell. Is this a problem?

Visitors to Ft. Campbell are required to access post through a security checkpoint. Further, vehicles can be searched at any time as driving on a federal military installation is a privilege, not a right. A well trained Military Police Officer is going to have your driver license or military ID in his possession before asking to search your vehicle. If you are a civilian and you refuse, you will likely be made to leave the base immediately and bill be banned from post in the future. If you let them search and they find your gun, you are going to be cited, will be required to go to court, and need to get an attorney. You will also have your weapon seized. This is true even if you “forgot” the gun was in your car.

The Law

Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 930(a) provides that “whoever knowingly possesses or causes to be present a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a Federal facility…or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.” This is a misdemeanor, or non-felony, offense as defined by Section 3559 of the federal criminal code. However, the fine imposed upon conviction on this offense can be up to $100,000 pursuant to Section 3571.

While ignorance of the law rarely serves as a successful defense, notice of this offense under 18 U.S.C. § 930 must be “posted conspicuously” at the entrance of a federal facility pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 930(h). Accordingly, in the event that a person is charged with violation of this offense, the accused person’s defense attorney must evaluate whether conspicuous notice was provided. Federal case law indicates that the prosecuting authority does not have the responsibility to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that notice was conspicuously posted in order to secure a conviction. Rather, the defendant and his or her attorney must plead lack of conspicuous notice an affirmative defense and prepare to prove it.

If you are someone who regularly carries a concealed firearm, it is very easy to forget that you have it in your vehicle or purse when entering Ft. Campbell. Any person entering post should diligently take precautions to avoid entering the base with an unauthorized firearm. If you or someone you know is accused of committing an offense on Fort Campbell, please contact the attorneys of Patton | Pittman and schedule a free consultation to discuss an appropriate course of action. We have attorneys licensed to practice law in the Federal District Courts including the Middle District of Tennessee.
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