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Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds

A school is certainly not a proper place for any firearm. New York has embraced that attitude with strict laws and severe punishments for possessing a weapon on school grounds.

Illegal possession of a weapon on school grounds, including any handgun, rifle, or shotgun, is a Class E felony in New York under N.Y. Penal Law 265.01-a. The statute was enacted in 2013 in the wake of a barrage of school shootings across the country. It does not matter if a gun is properly licensed becausue any operable gun possessed at a school by anyone other than a law enforcement officer is against the law.

Penalties for a conviction of Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds include one to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Attorney for Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds in Manhattan

If you were arrested for criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds in Manhattan or any of the five boroughs of New York City, then you should contact a criminal defense lawyer to assist you with the legal process. A qualified attorney will be able to explain the charge and defenses that might apply to your case. 

At Greco Neyland, PC, we represent people arrested on criminal weapons charges in New York City. We take the time to investigate each client’s situation and develop an aggressive defense. 

With Greco Neyland, PC as your advocate, you will have former prosecutors fighting on your behalf, so we know how the process works. We use our knowledge of criminal legal procedure to help you fight the case. We represent clients in Manhattan (New York County), Brooklyn (Kings County), The Bronx, and the other boroughs of New York City. Call us today at (212) 951-1300 to schedule a free consultation.


Information Center for Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds in New York City


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Types of Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds

Both the state of New York and New York City are well known for tough gun possession laws, but the law is even tougher on anyone who knowingly brings an operable gun to a school.

New York Penal Law, Part 3, Title P, Article 265.01-a, enacted in 2013, states that a person is guilty of Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds when that person “knowingly has in his or her possession a rifle, shotgun, or firearm (handgun) in or upon a building or grounds, used for educational purposes, of any school, college or university, … or upon a school bus, without the written authorization of such educational institution.”

It does not matter if the weapon is properly licensed. Knowingly possessing any operable rifle, shotgun, or handgun (without written permission) on any school campus anywhere in New York is illegal, except for law enforcement officers.

The law does carve out an additional exception for possession of a weapon on “the forestry lands, wherever located, owned and maintained by the State University of New York college of environmental science and forestry.”


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Definitions of Terms Related to Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds

Several key terms in the law are legally defined in the statutes, including possess, and knowingly, and as well as the definitions of the weapons cited.

Under the law, “possess” means to have physical possession or otherwise to exercise dominion or control over tangible property. (N.Y. P.L. Part 1, Title A, Article 10.00(8)).

Possession may be “actual” or “constructive.” Actual possession occurs when the police discover a weapon on a person or his or her belongings and no one else has equal access to it. Constructive possession occurs when more than one person has access to a weapon, such as a weapon in a room or a vehicle when more than one person has access to it.

A person “knowingly” possesses a weapon when that person is “aware” that he or she is in possession of a weapon. (N.Y. P.L. Part 1, Title B, Article 15.05(2)).

A “rifle” is legally defined as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade, to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.” (N.Y. P.L. 265.00(11)).

A “shotgun” is legally defined as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade, to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.” (N.Y. P.L. 265.00(12)).

A “firearm” is defined in N.Y. P.L. 265.01 as “any pistol or revolver,” or weapons commonly known as handguns.

A handgun does not need to be loaded for a person to be charged under this law, but it must be “operable.” To be operable, a firearm must be “capable of discharging ammunition,” although previous court cases have established that the possessor of a gun does not need to know if the gun was operable in order to be charged.

Finally, under New York law, a “school bus” means “every motor vehicle owned by a public or governmental agency or private school and operated for the transportation of pupils, children of pupils, teachers and other persons acting in a supervisory capacity, to or from school or school activities or privately owned and operated for compensation for the transportation of pupils, children of pupils, teachers and other persons acting in a supervisory capacity to or from school or school activities.” (N.Y. Vehicle Traffic Law, Title I, Article 1, § 142).


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Elements for for Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds Charges

In order for a defendant to be found guilty of a charge of Possession of a Firearm in the Fourth Degree, a judge or jury must find that a person, beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Possessed a rifle, shotgun, or firearm on or about a certain date in a specific county upon a building or grounds, used for educational purposes, of any school, college or university, (or upon a school bus), without the written authorization of such educational institution;
  • Knowingly possessed a rifle, shotgun, or firearm on or about a certain date in a specific county upon a building or grounds, used for educational purposes, of any school, college or university, (or upon a school bus), without the written authorization of such educational institution;
  • That the possession did not take place on the forestry lands, wherever located, owned and maintained by the State University of New York college of environmental science and forestry; and
  • The firearm (if possessed) was operable.

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Penalties for Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds

Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds is a Class E felony in New York. A Class E felony is the lowest-level felony in New York, and is punishable upon conviction by a sentence of:

  • One to four years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of up to $5,000

The law does allow for an “alternative definite sentence” for Class E felonies committed by first-time offenders, with the court given the discretion to impose a fixed term of one year or less, but only after the court regards the “nature and circumstances of the crime and … the history and character of the defendant.” (N.Y. P.L. Part 2, Title E, Article 70.00(4)).


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Resources Related to Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds

New York Penal Law, Part 3, Title P, Article 265.01-a — Read the New York State law pertaining to criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds.

Jury Instructions for Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds — Visit the website of the New York State Unified Court System to find the standard criminal jury instructions (CJI) for Penal Law Offenses, including criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds on or after March 16, 2013.


Find an Attorney for Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds in New York City

If you were arrested in New York City for Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds under N.Y. P.L. § 265.01-a, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The skilled criminal defense attorneys in Manhattan at Greco Neyland, PC are experienced in defending clients on felony weapon possession charges. We serve clients throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, and The Bronx. Contact the dedicated lawyers at Greco Neyland, PC today by calling (212) 951-1300 to schedule a free consultation about your gun charge.

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