Unauthorized Possession Of Weapons

Unauthorized Possession Of Offensive Weapons Lawyer In Iowa

Iowa Code 724.3 makes it illegal to carry an offensive weapon without authority. Breaking this law is a class D felony.  You could go to prison for up to five years.

Class D Felony Unauthorized Possession of an Offensive Weapon

The government must prove all of the following elements of Class D Felony Unauthorized Possession of an Offensive Weapon in order to convict you:

  • You are not an authorized person
  • But you possessed an offensive weapon anyway
  • And you knew that you had that weapon

Who is an "authorized person?"

It's illegal to possess an offensive weapon without authority.  So who's authorized?

The following people may have offensive weapons when their duties or lawful activities require or permit it:

  • Peace officers
  • Members of the United States armed forces
  • Members of the National Guard
  • People in the service of the United States
  • Iowa Department of Corrections correctional officers
  • People who are lawfully engaged in the business of supplying offensive weapons to authorized people
  • People, firms, and corporations who are lawfully engaged in improving, inventing, or manufacturing firearms
  • Museums (etc.) that display relics that are permanently unfit for use
  • People who have curios or relic firearms "solely for use in the official functions of a historical reenactment organization of which the person is a member," IF the weapon "has been permanently rendered unfit for the firing of live ammunition."  (It's okay if the weapon is adapted to fire blanks.)

Even if someone is authorized to possess offensive weapons in some situations, "no person is authorized to possess a shotshell or cartridge intended to project a flame or fireball ."  Iowa Code Section 724.1(7).

What is an "Offensive Weapon?"

Iowa Code section 724.1 explains that the following are "offensive weapons:"

  • Machine guns.  
  • Short-barreled rifles.  (A rifle with less than 16 inches of barrel length or a rifle that is less than 26 inches long.)
  • Short-barreled shotguns. (A shotgun with less than eighteen inches in barrel length or a shotgun less than 26 inches long.)
  • Any weapon other than a shotgun or muzzle loading rifle, cannon, pistol, revolver or musket, which fires or can be made to fire a projectile by the explosion of a propellant charge, which has a barrel or tube with the bore of more than six-tenths of an inch in diameter, or the ammunition or projectile therefor, but not including antique weapons kept for display or lawful shooting.
  • Explosive, incendiary, or poison gas bombs, grenades, or mines.
  • Rockets with more than four ounces of propellant charge.
  • Missiles with more than a quarter ounce of explosive charge.
  • Any device "similar" to those bombs, grenades, mines, rockets, or missiles (note -- constitutional vagueness protections are worth evaluating any time a law prohibits "similar" conduct.)
  • Ballistic knives.  (Knives with detachable blades, propelled by spring-operated mechanisms, elastic material, or compressed gas.)
  • Parts or combinations of parts designed or intended to be used to convert other things into or assemble offensive weapons.  This does NOT include magazines or other parts, ammunition or ammunition components for lawful sporting firearms.  This also does NOT include barrels suitable for refitting to sporting firearms.
  • Bullets or projectiles that contain explosive mixtures or chemical compounds that are capable of exploding or detonating prior to or upon impact.
  • Shotshells or cartridges containing exothermic pyrophoric misch metal as a projectile, designed to throw or project a flame or fireball to simulate a flamethrower.  (NOBODY is authorized to possess this one)
  • Silencers, mufflers, and suppressers.  (There's an exception for deer hunting with a specific permit.)


The following things are NOT considered "offensive weapons," though: 

  • Antique firearms.  (Firearms manufactured in or before 1898 or firearms that are replicas of firearms manufactured in or before 1898.  In order to be considered an "antique firearm," a replica must not be designed or redesigned for using conventional rimfire or centerfire fixed ammunition.  It also must not be manufactured in the United States anymore and must not be readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.)
  • Collector's items.  (Firearms that, by reason of date of manufacture, value, design, and other characteristics, are unlikely to be used as weapons.  The commissioner of public safety makes a rule to designate which firearms are collector's items.  That list gets updated at least annually.  Machine guns are NOT collector's items.)
  • Devices that aren't designed or redesigned for use as weapons.
  • Things that are designed solely for signaling, pyrotechnic, line-throwing, safety, or things like that.
  • Firearms that are unserviceable by reason of being unable to discharge a shot by means of an explosive and is incapable of being readily restored to a firing condition.

Penalties for Unauthorized Possession of Offensive Weapons in Iowa

  • Class D Felony. Up to 5 years in prison. $1,025 minimum to $10,245 maximum fine.

You will have to pay an additional 15% crime services surcharge on any fine

If you get a deferred judgment instead of a conviction, you will pay a civil penalty instead of a fine. Civil penalties are in the same amounts as criminal fines — for instance, if you get a deferred judgment on a theft 5th, you could get a civil penalty of $105 instead of getting a criminal fine for $105. There’s no additional15% surcharge for civil penalties, though.

If you receive a deferred judgment, you will be put on probation.  Your prison sentence will be "suspended," so that you don't have to go to prison unless you violate probation.  Probation charges a $300 supervision fee.  If you successfully complete probation following a deferred judgment, your conviction will be expunged from your publicly-visible court record. 

You are not eligible for a deferred judgment if you have received two deferred judgments in the past.  

The county attorney might ask for the judge to order you to perform community service hours. You might have to pay a placement fee.

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