This post will cover the basics of responsible firearm ownership in Indiana: how to get a handgun license, how you can lose that license, and the consequences disregarding the law.
The attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm—like many of our fellow Hoosiers—are strong supporters of the Second Amendment. Like all of our cherished rights, however, the right to bear arms isn’t absolute. You can’t just walk into a store, buy a handgun, and carry it around with you wherever you please. To do that, you’ll need a license.
To obtain a handgun license in the State of Indiana, there’s a process you need to follow. Step one is filling out the application, which will require you to disclose any criminal convictions (note that this doesn’t include convictions you’ve had expunged from your record). Following the application, you’ll have 90 days to get fingerprinted and complete the local law enforcement requirements.
There’s some interesting legal interplay at work here: You have a constitutional right to carry a firearm, but exercising that right is a privilege. If you don’t play by society’s rules, you can kiss your rights and your privileges goodbye. For example, if you’ve been convicted of domestic battery, Indiana has made it a Class A misdemeanor for you to possess a firearm. If the law has deemed you a serious violent felon, possessing a firearm is both a Level 4 felony and a federal crime. The federal statute also makes it unlawful to have a gun if you’ve been convicted of a “crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”
If the Superintendent of the Indiana State Police acquires a reasonable belief or suspicion that you shouldn’t be armed, he has the discretion to review and revoke your handgun license. It is within the Superintendent’s job description to make case-by-case determinations about the propriety of an individual’s firearm possession. If your license is rescinded, you’ll receive written notice of the decision. Failure to comply will result in criminal charges being brought against you.
In Indiana, there are countless gun-related criminal charges you can face. These range from the aforementioned Class A misdemeanor on the low end, all the way up to murder, which is the most serious felony recognized under State law. The following sections will address possession-related crimes and their consequences.
Carrying a Handgun Without a License
This is the lightest, most basic firearm-related charge that you can receive—which is not to say that it’s insignificant. In order to be charged with and convicted of this offense, the State of Indiana must prove that you were carrying a handgun and did not have a valid license. The maximum penalty that can be imposed for this Class A misdemeanor is a $5,000 fine and one year in jail.
If this is the second time you’ve been caught carrying without a license, you’ll be charged with a Level 5 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of six years in the Department of Corrections and a $10,000 fine. The charge for carrying a handgun without a license is also a Level 5 felony if you do it on or within 500 feet of school property or on a school bus.
Felon in Possession of a Handgun
If you’ve been convicted of any felony in the last 15 years, carrying a handgun without a license won’t be a misdemeanor—it’ll be charged as a Level 5 felony. It doesn’t matter whether your prior conviction was firearm-related. For example, let’s say your entire criminal record consists of a felony DUI / OVWI conviction back in 2004. If you’re arrested today for possessing a handgun without a license, you’ll be charged with a Level 5 felony, because you have a prior felony conviction within 15 years.
Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Serious Violent Felon
The name of this criminal charge is redundant, as there’s no such thing as lawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. That is to say, if you’re a serious violent felon, any and all possession of a firearm is unlawful. It may sound like local news-style hyperbole, but the phrase serious violent felon is actually a term of art in Indiana criminal law. It’s defined by statute, and this definition includes a laundry list of crimes that will qualify you for this ignominious distinction. In other words, serious violent felon is a formal legal classification. If you’ve earned this label, the State already knows about it.
If it’s unlawful for a serious violent felon to possess a firearm, and it’s a matter of public record that you’re a serious violent felon, your only possible defense to this charge is to assert that you weren’t actually in possession of a firearm. This seems as good a place as any to note that from a legal perspective, possession can be either actual or constructive (see this post from the Marc Lopez Law Firm—it’s explicitly about drugs, but the same logic applies—for a more in-depth treatment of the legal concept of possession and all of its nuances).
If you’re charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, it’s a Level 4 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 12 years in the Department of Correction and a $10,000 fine. Things can always get worse, of course, if your case is picked up by the federal government.
Cause for Alarm?
According to CBS News, when it comes to ranking firearm-related fatality rates, Indiana is deadlier than Illinois, New York, and even Texas. This data is based on the most recent numbers (released in 2013) from the National Center for Health Statistics, and it suggests that for every 100,000 Hoosiers, 13 of us per year are killed by a firearm.
In every year from 2015 to 2018, Indianapolis broke its own record for gun-related homicides, while 2019 brought attention to the “steadily climbing number of non-fatal shootings across the city.” As a result of both the bloodshed and its increasing public profile, Indiana has been working with the Federal Government and the FBI to identify high-risk offenders.
If an offender is deemed to be high-risk, they’ll likely be charged in Federal District Court. If you find yourself in this position, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately, as you’re probably facing mandatory time in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
At the Marc Lopez Law Firm, we make it our business to defend people who’ve been charged with both misdemeanors and felonies. If you have any questions, give us a call at 317-632-3642, and remember—always plead the 5th!