Possession of a Defaced Firearm

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Possession of a Defaced Firearm

Ohio laws make it a crime to deface a firearm or to be in possession of a firearm that has been defaced. These crimes are both described under Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.201.

If you face charges for defacing a firearm or possession of a defaced firearm in Cincinnati, you should be aware that you could face between 180 days in jail to 18 months in prison if you are convicted. The sentencing in your case would depend on how your offense is charged.

Either way, with your freedom at stake, hire a defense attorney who can mount a defense on your behalf based on strong experience with Ohio’s criminal justice system. Joslyn Law Firm has handled more than 20,000 criminal cases in the state. We are Ohio’s nationally recognized criminal defense firm. Our criminal defense attorneys are widely respected for their knowledge of the state’s criminal laws—and how to defend clients accused of violating these laws.

Principal attorney Brian Joslyn has been recognized multiple times over with awards from his peers and other members of the legal community. The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys awarded Joslyn the honor of a “10 Best Attorney.” The prestigious Super Lawyers attorney rating service identified him as a “Rising Star.”

Joslyn is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, where he has earned the AV Preeminent award. This designation is reserved for lawyers who have been ranked at the highest level of professional excellence for their ethical standards, communications skills, and legal expertise.

Cincinnati Attorneys for Possession of a Defaced Firearm

Ohio lumps the two criminal acts of defacing a firearm and possession of a defaced firearm under the same section of the state’s criminal code. However, there are key differences to how each of these criminal acts is prosecuted—and consequently, how they can be defended.

Hire an attorney who knows about these differences and who has the experience and knowledge to beat the weapon/firearm charges you now face.

If you are charged with possession of a defaced firearm, you might think that a lack of identifying marks on your firearm is all that’s required to ensure a conviction. This is not true. There are defenses we can raise on your behalf, and we have the knowledge and resources to investigate which defenses will serve you best.

We Have Earned Our Clients’ Trust

Our law firm has gained the trust of people, like you, who have stepped into Ohio’s criminal justice system. We have earned this trust by delivering results. We deliver results because we know the state’s laws. We know the courts, the judges, the prosecutors, the bailiffs, and the probation officers who play a role in the outcome of these criminal cases.

Not only do our clients trust us, but so do journalists who depend on our knowledge of Ohio’s criminal laws. We have become a source of such information for news outlets like The Plain Dealer, 4 NBC, 6 ABC, 28 FOX, and 10 WBNS.

Let Joslyn Law Firm help you by putting our passion for protecting the rights of the accused to work in your defense. Call us today for a private, no-obligation consultation at (513) 399-6289.

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Information Center for Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Cincinnati, OH


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Overview of Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Ohio

You can read Ohio’s laws regarding possession of a defaced firearm in the Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.201. This statute makes it a crime to alter, change, remove, or destroy identifying marks on a firearm, including the firearm’s serial number, model, and/or manufacturer. The law does not apply to firearms that were manufactured without a serial number.

Under Section 923.201, a person is also guilty of this offense if they knowingly possess a firearm that has been defaced in the above-stated manner—or if the individual has reasonable cause to believe the firearm’s identifying marks have been similarly manipulated.

How This Offense Is Charged

If you deface a firearm’s identification marks, you could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. If you have a previous conviction for this same offense, or you pleaded guilty to this offense, you could be charged with a fourth-degree felony.

Possession of a defaced firearm also constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor, with previous convictions or guilty pleas for the same offense elevating the offense to a fourth-degree felony.

It is important to note that if you previously were convicted of or pleaded guilty to defacing a firearm, this will not serve to elevate the charge for a current possession of a defaced firearm offense.

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Penalties for Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Cincinnati, OH

The penalties you would face for violation of either of the above offenses correspond with the penalties Ohio assigns to a first-degree misdemeanor, as outlined in Ohio Revised Code Section 2929.24.  The jail time for this charge is up to 180 days. Ohio Revised Code section 2929.28 also specifies a fine of up to $1,000 for this charge.

If you are charged with a fourth-degree felony, you will face a definite prison term as established in Ohio Revised Code Section 2929.14, which is between six and 18 months. You would also be subject to a fine of up to $5,000, as indicated in Ohio Revised Code Section 2929.18.

Collateral Consequences

Often, when an individual considers the consequences of a criminal conviction, they focus solely on the direct consequences: whether they will spend any time behind bars and whether they will face a financial penalty for their crime.

Relatively few people understand that a felony conviction also carries a host of indirect—or collateral—consequences. The Ohio Justice & Policy Center (OJPC) provides a useful database of civil sanctions that a person could endure after a conviction. You can use this tool to search for legal barriers you might face based on the criminal offense with which you have been charged. Alternatively, you can search by a specific privilege or right and see the types of criminal convictions that might lead to your being denied this right.

According to this source, there are 521 civil impacts of a felony conviction for defacing a firearm and 523 civil impacts of a felony conviction of possession of a defaced firearm. The OJPC database details 112 impacts of a misdemeanor conviction for defacing a firearm and 114 impacts of a misdemeanor conviction for possession of a defaced firearm.

Many of these sanctions prohibit certain types of employment, professional licenses, and civic and political participation. Some sanctions relate to motor vehicle licenses.

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Evidence in a Case of Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Cincinnati, OH

In any criminal case in Cincinnati, the prosecution has the burden of proof. To get a conviction, they must prove all the elements of the offense as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code. The two crimes that fall under Revised Code Section 2923.201—defacement and possession—differ slightly in other aspects of evidentiary requirements.

Evidence Required for the Crime of Defacement

The crime of defacement does not require proof of mens rea—criminal intent—only the actus reus—the criminal act itself. In other words, if you were to have accidentally removed or obscured your gun’s serial number while you were cleaning the firearm, you could still be guilty of the crime of defacement, provided the prosecutor was able to prove the elements of the offense—that you removed, altered, changed, or destroyed the gun’s identification mark.

Evidence Required for the Crime of Possession

On the other hand, the crime of possession of a defaced firearm does require that the prosecutor prove some degree of mens rea. Ohio law splits some hairs in this area. Although the prosecution must prove that you either knew or should have known that an identification mark was changed or destroyed on your firearm (the simple presence of scratch marks around the serial number could establish this proof), it does not need to prove you knew this defacement was illegal.

Should You Call the Police if You Have a Defaced Gun?

If you discover that a firearm you purchased secondhand has been defaced, our lawyers can walk you through your next course of action. Keep in mind that if you report the firearm to the police, you are technically still guilty of the Ohio crime of possession of a defaced firearm. It would be wise to have a possession of a defaced firearm attorney by your side to make the best of your situation.


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Defenses Against Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Cincinnati, OH

We could raise potentially several types of defenses in a case of possession of a defaced firearm. The right strategy for your defense depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.

Statutory Defense

Possibly, we could raise a statutory defense—meaning one that relies on the words of the very law itself. The only statutory defense available in a possession of a defaced firearm offense is that the firearm was manufactured without identifying information.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 made it a federal requirement for firearms manufacturers and importers to place a unique serial number on each of their firearms for the purpose of identifying and tracing the piece. As such, we could raise this defense only if the firearm in question was made before 1968, when this law took effect.

Our firm has access to firearms experts who can analyze your firearm and tell us if there are any age-related anomalies that we could use in this type of defense.

Procedural Defenses

With a procedural defense, our lawyers would essentially argue that as a defendant, the judicial system treated you wrongly or unfairly. Perhaps the chain of evidence—the manner in which the firearm or other physical evidence was moved and stored through the judicial process—was tainted, making that evidence inadmissible.

Constitutional violations could also play a role in this type of defense. For example, if police conducted an unlawful search and seizure, violating your Fourth Amendment right, any evidence (including the firearm) obtained during this search and seizure could be thrown out. In a possession case, no firearm means no case.

Other Defenses

In most criminal cases, our criminal defense lawyers can also make use of one of the following defenses:

  • Duress: Another individual forced you—under the threat of harm to yourself or someone else—to deface a firearm or possess a defaced firearm. If you had no alternative course of action, and the threatened harm was graver than the criminal act, we could raise this defense on your behalf.
  • Self-defense: Perhaps you managed to wrangle a defaced gun away from a would-be assailant, putting you in possession of the unlawful weapon. If you were in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death, this defense could apply to your case.
  • Insanity/mental incompetence: A person who is mentally challenged might not comprehend the significance of a serial number or think to check for its existence on a firearm. In such a case, we could argue mental incompetence.
  • Necessity/lesser harm: We could raise this defense if you confiscated a defaced weapon from a dangerous individual to prevent their committing a greater harm and immediately turned it in to law enforcement.
  • Defense of a third person: If another person faces imminent bodily harm or death, and they could not defend themselves, we could argue that you used an unlawfully defaced firearm to defend them, provided the weapon did not belong to you.

Our legal team will conduct a thorough investigation of your case and determine the best defense or defenses to achieve an optimal outcome on your behalf.

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Resources for Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Cincinnati, OH

Ohio Justice & Policy Center

Visit the Ohio Justice & Policy Center website to make use of the organization’s collateral consequences database. This tool enables you to search by multiple variables, including a particular right or privilege or a specific criminal offense. Forewarned is forearmed, and you might rest easier knowing the full breadth of civil sanctions you could be facing for a possession of a defaced firearm conviction.

Gun Control Act of 1968

This piece of federal legislation forms the basis for Ohio Revised Section 2923.201. With the Gun Control Act, federal law requires manufacturers and importers to facilitate the tracking and identification of their products by imposing a unique serial number on each firearm they manufacture or import.

This legislation is important to someone charged with a possession offense in that if the firearm of issue was manufactured before this act’s going into effect, the individual has committed no crime. Ohio’s laws about possession of a defaced firearm pertain only to those weapons that were manufactured with identification marks, like serial numbers.

National Rifle Association of America Institute for Legislative Action

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) works to protect Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. The organization plays an active role in lobbying against proposed gun legislation. As the owner of a firearm, it would serve you well to stay apprised of the legislation that the NRA-ILA is following and protesting, as it could very well affect you down the road.

City of Cincinnati Laws & Codes – Chapter 708 – Dangerous Weapons and Fireworks

As the owner of a firearm in Cincinnati, you should be informed of not only state laws regarding firearms but also the city’s specific gun-related laws and codes. Visit this site to learn how Cincinnati authorities define firearms and any restrictions they impose on the use or possession of firearms, as well as penalties associated with violating these laws.

Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.201

Ohio’s criminal code clearly describes the two-pronged offense known as possession of a defaced firearm. Read up on this section of the code to read the letter of the statute, which makes it a crime to alter, remove, change, or obliterate a gun’s identification marks; as well as to possess a firearm that has been defaced in such a manner. The law also explains the rules for the escalation of charges.

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News about Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Cincinnati

November 24, 2020

“‘Slick’ Arrested in Bridgeport for Firearm and Drug Charges

While executing a search warrant on the residence of Richard Paul Thompson (aka “Slick”), deputies from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office discovered a range of drugs, as well as multiple defaced firearms, reports WTRF. The serial numbers on the guns had been removed. Police also uncovered homemade explosive devices. The suspect was booked into Belmont County Jail for defacing a firearm, possession of drugs, and weapons under disability. He is being held under a $30,000 bond.

November 3, 2020

“Five Charged With Possession of Counterfeit Money, Weapons, Drugs in Massena”

Police from the Massena Police Department in New York charged three Ohioans and two Massena residents with various weapons, drugs, and counterfeit currency offenses. A man from Union Town, Ohio, Christopher Hubbard, was charged with one count of willful defacement of a gun, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, one count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and charges related to counterfeit currency and possession of a controlled substance. Hubbard is being held in Canton at the St. Lawrence County jail. The two other individuals from Ohio were arraigned and released.

October 22, 2020

“Akron Police Arrest 28-Year-Old Man on Domestic Violence, Weapons Charges”

Police arrested Jackie Mitchell of Akron after officers responded to reports of gunfire in the man’s family home. Mitchell was accused of pointing a gun at the victim and shooting her. The suspect fled but was caught and placed under arrest. Police seized weapons from the house and charged Mitchell with possession of a defaced firearm, resisting arrest, weapons under disability, domestic violence menacing, and domestic violence.

May 30, 2017

“Bust Disrupted California-to-Cincinnati Drug Network, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Says”

A bust the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office conducted uncovered more than 130 pounds of high-grade marijuana and assault weapons, according to ABC 9 WCPO. Municipal Court Judge Josh Berkowitz set bond at $600,000 for Cornelius Tidwell, who was charged with drug possession, drug trafficking, and possessing a defaced firearm. Many of the seized weapons consisted of stolen guns with high-capacity magazines. Reportedly, Berkowitz was part of an organization that was transporting marijuana from California to Cincinnati.

April 27, 2017

“Appeals Court Bans Cleveland Gun Registry, Regulations” reports that the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals rejected many gun regulations that had been enacted in Cleveland in 2015 based on their unconstitutionality. One of the regulations the three judges struck down was the proposal to create a “gun registry” for people convicted of crimes connected with a firearm. The new regulations had also included the prohibiting of defacing identifying marks on firearms or possessing defaced firearms.


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FAQs about Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Hamilton County

Q. Is Possession of a Defaced Firearm a Felony in Cincinnati?

Typically, the crime of possessing a defaced firearm is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, if you have a prior conviction or previously pleaded guilty to this same crime, the offense would be charged as a fourth-degree felony.

Q. Could I Go to Jail for Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Ohio?

Yes, if you are convicted of possession of a defaced firearm in Ohio, you could spend time behind bars. The length of the sentence would depend on how your offense is charged. If you are charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, you could spend up to 180 days in jail. If you are charged with a fourth-degree felony, you could spend between six and 18 months in prison.

Q. How Can I Beat a Possession of a Defaced Firearm Charge in Hamilton County?

Several defenses could be raised against a possession of a defaced firearm charge in Hamilton County. If your firearm never carried a serial number, you could not be convicted of this offense. Also, any number of procedural defenses, such as unlawful search and seizure and other violations of your constitutional rights, could be raised, depending on the circumstances of your case.

Q. Does an Ohio Prosecutor in a Possession of a Defaced Firearm Case Need to Prove Criminal Intent?

Yes, an Ohio prosecutor must, to some degree, prove the mens rea—or criminal intent. They will need to prove you either knew or should have known that the serial number or other identifying mark on the firearm was altered or destroyed in order to make the charges against you stick. However, they need not prove that you knew such defacing was illegal.

Q. Could Duress Be Used as a Defense Against Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Cincinnati?

Yes, it is possible for duress to be used as a defense against a charge of possession of a defaced firearm in Cincinnati. If, for example, a gang pressured you, under threat of physical harm or death, to hide a defaced firearm, this would constitute a valid argument of duress.

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Defense Lawyer for Possession of a Defaced Firearm in Cincinnati, OH

Gun laws in Ohio are complicated, and many Ohioans are not aware of the serious consequences of violating these laws. If you are being investigated or have been arrested for possession of a defaced firearm in Cincinnati, you should take the matter seriously—or risk spending time behind bars, as well as facing multiple life-altering collateral consequences.

The criminal defense attorneys at Joslyn Law Firm are here to guide you through the judicial process. Call us today for a free consultation: (513) 399-6289.

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  • Brian Joslyn was named Best Lawyer in 2019 by Birdeye.
  • Columbus CEO magazine has yearly selections for the best attorneys in Columbus Ohio. Brian Joslyn has been identified as one of the most highly skilled attorneys across central Ohio.
  • Brian Joslyn has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer LegionLawyer Legion
  • Preeminent Attorney Award. Peer rated for highest level of professional excellence.
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB), founded in 1912, is a private, nonprofit organization whose self-described mission is to focus on advancing marketplace trust.

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