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Gun Courts in New York City

At a recent press conference, several city officials announced plans to create specialized “gun courts” in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and the other boroughs in New York City. The purpose of the guns courts is to expedite the handling of firearm-related cases to more quickly identify and imprison those who use guns illegally. Another intended purposes is to bring attention to the program which might act as a deterrent for those intending to commit a gun crime.

Critics argue that a new Gun Court is doomed to fail and will only take the guns out of law-abiding citizens leaving them at the mercy of the criminals. Another purpose of creating a special gun court is to bring attention to the prosecution of these crimes which is intended to act of a deterrent.

The program will essentially fast-track guns cases. Gun courts funnel these cases into a special division with specially trained assistant district attorneys who focus on the prosecution of these cases. Although, other types of specialized courts such as Veterans Court and Drug Court are focus on rehabilitation and treatment programs, gun court intends to hand out harsher punishments for men and women accused of firearm-related crimes.

In fact at a recent press conference on the issue, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton believes that judges are “under-sentencing people involved in gun crimes” and hopes that judges will instead “maximize the penalties” when violence occurs.

New York has steep penalties for gun crimes including a 3.5 year mandatory minimum for anyone caught carrying a loaded, illegal weapon. Because of strict regulations it is estimated that 90% of guns seized on the streets in New York City originated from other states. Only 10 percent of crime guns recovered by city law enforcement originate from the State of New York.

Those working on the initiative include:

  • Richard Aborn, the head of the Citizens Crime Commission;
  • Police Commissioner Bill Bratton;
  • The five district attorneys;
  • Judge Lippman, now retired; and
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The new gun courts pilot program will be launched in Brooklyn, New York. The other boroughs, including Manhattan are expect to follow shortly.

Statistics on Gun Crimes in Manhattan and New York City

In 2015, murders were up slightly from the record low number in 2014. Although shooting incidents declined overall, killings by shootings were up. The number of arrests for firearm offenses increased by 10 percent from 2014. Additionally, the NYPD seize a record number of guns many of them coming from other states.

History of the Pilot Gun Court Program in 2003

In 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg created a pilot gun court program in Brooklyn, under District Attorney Charles Hynes. The statistics from that program showed an increase in the amount of jail time imposed in cases prosecuted in the pilot gun court program before the program was discontinued. Other jurisdictions that have established different types of “gun courts” with limited success include Providence, RI, Philadelphia, PA, Boston, MA and Birmingham, AL.

The Types of Crimes that Could Be Prosecuted in Gun Court in New York City

The laws of New York provide for harsh penalties for various types of firearm and weapon charges including:

  • Criminal Possession of a Handgun
  • Possession of a Weapon with Unlawful Intent
  • Criminal Possession of a Rifle or Shotgun
  • Criminal Possession of Ammunition
  • Criminal Possession of a Firearm Criminal Use of a Firearm (Second Degree)
  • Criminal Use of a Firearm (First Degree)
  • Sale of a Firearm (Third Degree)
  • Sale of a Firearm (Second Degree)
  • Sale of a Firearm (First Degree)
  • Criminal Purchase or Disposal of a Weapon
  • Aggravated Criminal Possession of a Weapon

Additional Resources

APRI’s Gun Violence Prosecution Program – Learn more about gun courts throughout the United States in this article in Swift & Certain, a publication of the American Prosecutors Research Institute’s Gun Violence Prosecution Program. APRI is the research and development division of the National District Attorney’s Association. The article argues that the main purpose of the programs is to convey the message to the public that violent crimes involved guns and firearms will not be tolerated. Crimes funneled in to the various gun courts discussed included purchasing, transporting or possessing a firearm by an individual convicted of a crime or by a fugitive from justice; larceny or theft of a firearm, carrying a handgun without a license or permit, illegally manufacturing, selling purchasing or possessing a machine gun; and/or altering marks or identifications on firearms, carrying a dangerous weapon while committing a crime of violence, committing a criminal offense while on pre-trial release for a weapon offense; and being a habitual criminal (if the criminal action involves a firearm).

New York City to Open Gun Courts to Expedite Prosecutions of Gun Crimes – Read about recent efforts in New York City to create a “gun court” to address violations of the state’s criminal laws related to firearm possession, improper exhibition, aggravated assault, and illegal sale and distribution.

New York City’s Gun Court Initiative: The Brooklyn Pilot Program, Final Report – Read the abstract describing the study evaluating whether the pilot program achieved the four goals of the New York City Gun Court initiative in Brooklyn, NY. The study tested four components of the New York City Gun Court initiative: swifter dispositions; more consistent sentencing; utilization of the designated Supreme Court part for indicted program cases; and increase in successful prosecution of gun possession cases. The program assigned felony gun-possession cases to a single, designated courtroom in Supreme Court. The designated courtroom processed indicted felony gun-possession cases from five precincts in Brooklyn.


Attorney for Firearm Crimes in Manhattan

If you are changed with a misdemeanor or felony firearm charge in New York City, including in Manhattan and the other boroughs, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Greco Neyland, PC. With offices in downtown Manhattan and midtown Manhattan, we can help you fight your case aggressively.

New York City’s Offices of the District Attorney are drawing much attention to their plans to prosecute gun crimes aggressively and seek harsh sentences when violence occurs. Make sure your attorney is also focused on defending these types of cases. Call today for a free consultation with an experienced gun crime attorney in Manhattan serving clients throughout New York City.

This article was last updated on Monday, May 30, 2016.

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