By RICHARD MEEHAN
The Cool Justice Report
Dec. 9, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress dominated the news when he shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan club.
Bad Boy Burress brought a loaded firearm with him for a night on the town. His rationale: He was carrying a large amount of cash and jewelry.
The gun supposedly went off accidentally, hitting him in the thigh. The remaining facts are murky but involve allegations that a teammate may have been complicit in removing him and the gun, security at the club may have known he was packing, and an emergency room doctor failed to report the shooting to police as mandated.
Burress' blunder has been the prime focus of sports talk shows with some noting that his concern for his safety was reasonable, in light of the fact that teammate, Steve Smith, was robbed at gunpoint days before. Others believe that it was an innocent misunderstanding since he possessed an expired Florida permit that could be reinstated retroactively. New York, however, does not recognize out of state permits. The penalty includes mandatory prison.
Connecticut has also regulated the right to carry a weapon. Despite the fact that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, government can establish reasonable restrictions. The Department of Public Safety issues carry permits. In Connecticut a person, other than a felon or the subject of a civil or criminal protective order, can possess a properly registered firearm in his or her home or business, without the need for a permit.
Weapons violations do not require proof of a criminal intent. The mere possession of the firearm, without a permit, is sufficient to convict. As with Burress, fear of harm or robbery is not a defense.
Here are some of the specific Connecticut statutes and penalties:
§ 53-206 prohibits carrying a dangerous weapon, including any BB. gun, blackjack, brass knuckles or any knife with a blade over four inches, any police baton or nightstick, or any martial arts weapon or electronic defense weapon. Violation is a 5 year felony.
§ 29-38 prohibits carrying a weapon in a motor vehicle without a proper permit. Every passenger in the vehicle is subject to prosecution. Violation carries a possible 5 year jail sentence, with no mandatory minimum.
§ 29-35 prohibits carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit. Violation carries a penalty of up to five years, one year of which cannot be suspended in the absence of mitigating circumstances. The law does provide a very limited exception for those carrying their household goods from one place to another, transporting the pistol in its original package from the place of sale to the purchaser's residence or business or to be repaired.
§ 53-202c. Possession of assault weapon carries a 5 year jail sentence, one year of which may not be suspended or reduced.
§ 53a-217. Criminal possession of a firearm or electronic defense weapon is a 5 year felony for anyone previously convicted of a felony or serious juvenile offense, or who is the subject of a restraining order or protective order. § 18 USC 922(g) is the federal equivalent and carries a potential 10 year sentence. For those subject to these prescriptions, even residing in the same household with someone who can legally possess a weapon is a violation.
§ 53a-216. Criminal use of firearm or electronic defense weapon in the commission of certain serious felonies carries a mandatory 5 year sentence.
§ 53a-217b. Possession of a weapon on school grounds also carries a 5 year sentence, and is grounds for expulsion.
Burress' idiocy was compounded when he mixed a loaded gun and alcohol.
Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1994 and serves on the organizations Board of Examiners. He is a Charter Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America -- Trial Lawyer Honorary Society. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV. Website, www.meehanlaw.com