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What Are The Penalties For Using Or Possessing A Short-Barrel (“Sawed-Off”) Shotgun Or Rifle In Michigan?

 

The short-barrel (or “sawed-off”) shotgun is romanticized in movies and television as a potent weapon.  It seems to combine the power of a regular shotgun with the portability of a handgun.  It is easier to carry and conceal on someone’s person without the long barrel.  The actual discharge loses power and accuracy, but it gains a wide range and spreads the shot further.  The difficulty in aim and the widespread potential for damage creates a substantial danger to anyone in the vicinity.  As a result, short-barrel shotguns and rifles are heavily restricted under federal and state law.

Generally, “[a] person shall not make, manufacture, transfer, or possess a short-barreled shotgun or a short-barreled rifle” in Michigan.  MCL 750.224b(1).

  • A “short-barreled rifle” means a rifle having 1 or more barrels less than 16 inches in length or a weapon made from a rifle, whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise, if the weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches. MCL 750.222(k).
  • A “short-barreled shotgun” means a shotgun having 1 or more barrels less than 18 inches in length or a weapon made from a shotgun, whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise, if the weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches. MCL 750.222(l).

Any person who unlawfully violates this law is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine up to $2,500.00 or up to 5 years in prison, or both.  MCL 750.224b(2).  However, it is a complete defense if the short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle is lawfully made, manufactured, transferred, or possessed under federal law.  MCL 750.224b(3).

The National Firearms Act requires that all applicable firearms in the United States not under the control of the government must be registered on the National Firearms Registrations and Transfer Record.  26 U.S.C. §5841(a).  “Firearms” that may be registered include short-barreled shotguns and short-barreled rifles.  26 U.S.C. §5845(a).  Every firearm registered must include the serial number identification of the gum, the date of registration and the identification and address of the person entitled to possess the firearm.  Every manufacturer, importer and maker must register each firearm that is manufactured, imported or made AND must register to the new owner after the weapon is transferred.   26 U.S.C. §5845(b).  Any person who possesses a firearm registered under the National Firearms Act shall retain a proof of registration that is available to a law enforcement officer upon request.   26 U.S.C. §5845(e).  It is unlawful for any person to “receive or possess a firearm which is not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.”  26 U.S.C. §5861(d).

The penalties for violating the National Firearms Act are as follows:

  • Anyone who unlawfully makes, transfers or possesses a short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle without legal authority is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine up to $10,000.00, or up to 10 years in federal prison, or both. 26 U.S.C. §5871.
  • Any firearm involved in a violation of this Act is subject to seizure and forfeiture.  26 U.S.C. §5872(a).

An individual who lawfully possesses a short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle under federal law must comply with additional legal requirements in the State of Michigan:

  • A person, excluding a manufacturer, lawfully making, transferring, or possessing a short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle that is 26 inches or less in length must obtain a pistol license for these firearms if required under MCL 28.422 and MCL 28.422a. MCL 750.224b(4).
  • A person who possesses a short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle that is greater than 26 inches in length under this section shall possess a copy of the federal registration of that short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle while transporting or using that short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle and shall present that federal registration to a peace officer upon request by that peace officer. MCL 750.224b(5).  A person who fails to present the federal registration upon request is responsible for a civil infraction punishable by a fine up to $100.00.  MCL 750.224b(6).
  • A person failing to display a federal registration upon request to law enforcement for a short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle is subject to having those weapons seized. The person has 45 days in which to display the federal registration to an authorized employee of the law enforcement entity that employs the peace officer. If the person displays the federal registration to an authorized employee of the law enforcement entity that employs the peace officer within the 45-day period, the authorized employee of that law enforcement entity shall return the short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle to the person unless the person is prohibited by law from possessing a firearm. If the person does not display the federal registration within the 45-day period, the short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle is subject to seizure and forfeiture in the same manner that property is subject to seizure and forfeiture if involved in a crime. MCL 750.224b(6).

A charge of unlawfully possessing a short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle is serious.  A felony conviction can affect your social, residential and employment opportunities for years to come.  In addition, a felony conviction can make it unlawful for the offender to possess a firearm for years to come.  When you are facing these serious allegations, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney in your corner that will fight hard to protect your rights.  Even if the evidence is strong against you, a lawyer may be able to negotiate a resolution to a reduced offense to minimize the potential penalties.

If you or a loved one is charged with a firearm crime or any other criminal offense, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.

 

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