Straw purchasing of a firearm refers to a crime that occurs when the defendant purchases or provides a firearm to another individual. The defendant knew that individual was prohibited from possessing the weapon, but proceeded with the transaction anyway. For example: felons in Wisconsin are prohibited from possessing firearms. If the defendant knows the other individual is a felon, and purchases a firearm for him, he’s committed this crime.
Penalties for straw purchasing of a firearm are severe. The charge is a Class G felony, meaning the maximum penalty the defendant faces upon conviction is 10 years in prison and $25,000.00 in fines. This is the same penalty that an individual convicted of a felony faces for possessing a firearm. The fact that the penalties for simply providing a firearm to a felon are the same as that felon faces show how serious lawmakers consider this offense.
At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., our entire firm focuses on providing criminal defense to individuals throughout Wisconsin. We’ve regularly encountered prosectors and courts looking to send individuals facing firearm crimes to prison. Our firm has achieved successful results in even the most difficult situations. Finally, while some firms don’t offer free initial consultations, we do. We believe it’s important to have a conversation with your potential attorney before money exchanges hands. Contact us at (414) 270-0202 to speak with our staff about how we can help.
Section 941.2905 of the Wisconsin Statutes deals with straw purchasing of a firearm. The law says:
(1) Whoever intentionally furnishes, purchases, or possesses a firearm for a person, knowing that the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm under s. 941.29 (1m), is guilty of a Class G felony.
It is illegal to furnish, purchase, or possess a firearm for an individual you know cannot possess a firearm. The selection of individuals included in this prohibition are provided in 941.29(1m) and include:
(a) The person has been convicted of a felony in this state.(b) The person has been convicted of a crime elsewhere that would be a felony if committed in this state.(bm) The person has been adjudicated delinquent for an act committed on or after April 21, 1994, that if committed by an adult in this state would be a felony.(c) The person has been found not guilty of a felony in this state by reason of mental disease or defect.(d) The person has been found not guilty of or not responsible for a crime elsewhere that would be a felony in this state by reason of insanity or mental disease, defect or illness.(e) The person has been committed for treatment under s. 51.20 (13) (a) and is subject to an order not to possess a firearm under s. 51.20 (13) (cv) 1., 2007 stats.(em) The person is subject to an order not to possess a firearm under s. 51.20 (13) (cv) 1., 51.45 (13) (i) 1., 54.10 (3) (f) 1., or 55.12 (10) (a).(f) The person is subject to an injunction issued under s. 813.12 or 813.122 or under a tribal injunction, as defined in s. 813.12 (1) (e), issued by a court established by any federally recognized Wisconsin Indian tribe or band, except the Menominee Indian tribe of Wisconsin, that includes notice to the respondent that he or she is subject to the requirements and penalties under this section and that has been filed under s. 813.128 (3g).(g) The person is subject to an order not to possess a firearm [due to a restraining order].
In Wisconsin, jury instructions serve an important role. Jury instructions break down crimes into separate parts, called elements. Elements are important because they’re the parts of a crime the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And if the government can not successfully do that, they cannot convict you. Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1343C provides the elements of straw purchasing a firearm:
Importantly, the jury instructions themselves refer to “felon” rather than “prohibited person.” This is misleading for the purpose of our article, which focuses on the crime generally. Felons are one of the classes that this crime focuses on. In addition to felons, various other classes of individuals cannot legally possess firearms and are the subject of this law.
Frequently, straw possession cases begin after law enforcements officers conduct some sort of search that turns up a firearm. Sometimes investigation leads officers to conclude that the firearm recovered in the search warrant was purchased by one individual for another.
Pre-trial motions are certainly important in cases like this. Examining the search warrant (if one was used) for constitutional defects is an important early step in defending a case. Law enforcement must show that there is probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be obtained during the search. If they didn’t do a very good job arguing that, there could be the possibility of a motion. A successful challenge to a search warrant is especially powerful in cases involving physical evidence – they frequently leave the government unable to proceed with charges against the defendant.
In another common scenario, the straw purchaser had no idea that the prohibited individual could not possess a firearm. Sometimes this happens in relationships. One partner does not realize that the other partner has an old felony conviction or some other issue rendering him unable to purchase a gun. Upon law enforcement finding the weapon, frequently they simply assume that the partner must have known about the old conviction. These situations sometimes require proceeding to trial and arguing our position. Sometimes, with proper investigation and a reasonable prosecutor, we can obtain the dismissal of charges before arriving at this point.
At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., our attorneys focus on defending individuals accused of committing crimes throughout the state. Our main and satellite offices are based in southeastern Wisconsin, but we’re able to defend individuals throughout the entire state. This is typically common with serious and mid-level felonies, such as straw purchasing a firearm.
We’re recognized as some of Wisconsin’s best criminal defense attorneys due to cases we’ve won, how thoroughly we defend clients, and the skill that all of our attorneys possess. We believe that hiring a top criminal defense lawyer when facing charges that could send you to prison is especially important.
Contact us today at (414) 270-0202. Let’s talk about your case and figure out how we can help.