Wisconsin criminal law bans carrying a firearm in a public building. The word “public” building applies only to buildings owned or leased by the state or any political subdivision of the state. The charge is a Class A misdemeanor, meaning that if you’re convicted of this offense you face a maximum penalty of 9 months in jail, $10,000.00 in fines, or both. This charge is not a felony, and a prison sentence is not a possibility.
At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., we regularly represent individuals facing criminal charges involving firearms. Gun charges are sometimes the most serious and carry significant penalties. For help, or to speak with us about a free initial consultation, contact our firm via telephone at (414) 270-0202.
Section 941.235 of the Wisconsin Statutes provides us with the statutory language of the carrying a firearm in a public building law. It indicates:
(1) Any person who goes armed with a firearm in any building owned or leased by the state or any political subdivision of the state is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.(2) This section does not apply to any of the following:(a) Peace officers or armed forces or military personnel who go armed in the line of duty or to any person duly authorized by the chief of police of any city, village or town, the chief of the capitol police, or the sheriff of any county to possess a firearm in any building under sub. (1). Notwithstanding s. 939.22 (22), for purposes of this paragraph, peace officer does not include a commission warden who is not a state-certified commission warden.(c) A qualified out-of-state law enforcement officer …(d) A former officer …(e) [Individuals with valid carrying a concealed weapon permits, from Wisconsin or any other state.]
Jury instructions are incredibly helpful when trying to understand a law in Wisconsin. These instructions are read out loud by judges to jurors sitting in trial. Courts also use them when conducting plea hearings with defendants. And finally, they help defense attorneys, prosecutors, and general members of the public to better understand certain concepts regarding civil and criminal law.
Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1337 describes the elements, or parts, of carrying a firearm in a public building. It’s the government’s burden to prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If they cannot, the court cannot find the defendant guilty. The elements are as follows:
Immediately an important concept becomes apparent when looking at the jury instructions: the defendant had to know that the firearm was on his person. This could apply in situations such as when the defendant had the firearm in a backpack and didn’t know it was there. And this isn’t a far-fetched concept, as we regularly read about individuals in possession of firearms at airports and other locations where they shouldn’t be.
While we will provide our opinion on trial strategy, possible defenses, and other issues, this decision is yours alone. But in situations like we described above (where the firearm is mistakenly left in a backpack), trial could be the best route through a criminal case. If the prosecutor doesn’t believe you made a mistake and isn’t willing to dismiss or reduce charges to a point you’re comfortable with, trial is frequently the route defendants proceed.
Our criminal defense lawyers have fought for hundreds of individuals in that very position. We’ve won many cases and don’t see this possibility as automatically a bad thing. Defendants proceed to jury trial for a variety of reasons. Your reason need not be that you forgot a firearm in your bag.
Whenever you encounter even the possibility of being charged with a crime, we suggest hiring a criminal defense attorney. Sometimes clients move slowly and hope that the government decides not to pursue charges or to just assume the suspect is a good person and look the other way. As criminal defense lawyers, we’ve seen this hopeful assumption backfire many times. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like the government would rather charge a defendant with a crime than understand the person involved and the whole situation.
Getting our defense attorneys involved at an early stage is always a good idea. Sometimes we will gather evidence with the help of an investigator. We can begin building a case for your good character. There’s even the possibility of trying to convince the police not to refer criminal charges, or for convincing a prosecutor not to file formal charges. But even if a case is filed, having a strong ally at your side is important in any criminal case.
Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. immediately to schedule a free consultation and to meet with one of our attorneys. We’re available 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.