How the Use of a Firearm Can Elevate Criminal Penalties

The use of a firearm in a crime can greatly elevate its consequences. It often, for instance, makes a misdemeanor crime into a serious felony.

Let’s look at an example. Assault is already a serious crime. It can result in felony charges and long prison terms. If, however, an assailant commits aggravated assault with a firearm, Tennessee courts can add an additional 15 years to the sentence. This penalty goes even higher if using a deadly weapon results in serious bodily injury or death. The same is true for any other crime where the offender uses a gun.

Additionally, criminals illegally possessing a handgun can face additional jail time, fines, and community service.

In this article, we broadly discuss how using a gun affects criminal punishments. We also provide insight on what steps to take when facing such allegations.

Use of a Gun Impacting Sentencing Guidelines in Tennessee

Firearm offenses come with serious consequences in Tennessee. The law calls the use of a gun an “aggravating factor.”

For instance, carrying a weapon while committing a robbery results in “enhanced sentencing.” Such sentencing can add several additional years in jail or even bring the penalty up to life in prison without parole.

The severity of the punishment depends upon the type of crime committed and other factors. These factors include prior criminal convictions and the danger a suspect poses to others.

Remember that simply possessing an illegal firearm carries its own penalties as well. For example, possessing a stolen gun can result in five years of incarceration.

Using a Firearm for Self-Defense in Tennessee

If a defendant can establish self-defense as the cause for using a deadly weapon, criminal penalties can be heavily reduced, or the suspect may not face any punishments.

Self-defense may be established by demonstrating there was an imminent threat of bodily harm or death, and using a gun was necessary to protect yourself.

Common Defenses Against Charges Involving Firearms

  • Self-Defense
    This is the leading defense strategy in most gun-related allegations. It argues that the accused’s actions were necessary to protect themselves or others from imminent danger. The danger itself must be life-threatening as well. For instance, deadly force is not necessary to defend oneself against a purse-snatcher.
  • Lack of Intent
    Sometimes, a person faces elevated charges just for having a gun during a crime. They may never have drawn the weapon, used it, or shown it to the alleged victim. You may be able to argue that the gun was irrelevant to the alleged crime, and you had no intent to use it.
  • Lack of Evidence
    Quite simply, if you did not commit a crime, you should be able to build your case and prove you were not involved. Such defense includes documentation, alibis, witness statements, GPS histories, communication records, and so on.
  • Defense of Property
    It is also acceptable to defend property to protect yourself or your family. This means that the attacker may not be directly in front of you, intending imminent harm. If someone plans to harm you, you can use force the moment they enter your land.
  • Improper Police Tactics
    If police break protocol, even just a little, the court can throw out a case. This is true whether the defendant is guilty or not. Make sure your attorney knows every detail of your arrest and any other interaction you had with the authorities.

Patton & Pittman Attorneys is here to help defend you against criminal firearm charges. You can schedule a free consultation with our office online, or you can call us at (931) 361-4477.

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