Possessing a Longarm Without License

– section 6 of the Firearms Act 1996

The charge of possessing a longarm (rifle etc) without a licence if proven, will usually result in the confiscation of the weapon, large fines, and prison in serious cases.It is an offence to possess, carry or use a longarm without a license. A longarm refers to any firearm that is not a handgun.
Man Holding a Longarm
As this is a summary offence this will be generally heard by the Magistrates Court.
 
Examples of Possessing a Longarm Without License
  • You do not have a license and Police conduct the search of a premises and discover a .308 calibre rifle.
  • You do not have a license and a .22 calibre rifle is discovered in your possession that you have borrowed from a friend.
  • You do not have a license and you inherit a .222 calibre rifle from a deceased family member.
What is the legal definition of Possessing a Longarm Without License?
A non-prohibited person must not possess, carry or use a category A longarm that is registered unless that person does so under and in accordance with a licence issued under this Part.

Legislation
The legislation for this offence can be found on section 6 of Firearms Act 1996.

Elements of the offence
To prove this accusation the Prosecution must show that the accused possessed a longarm and did not have the proper or valid licence.

“Have you been caught with a rifle and no license?”

What are some of the possible defences to Possessing a Longarm Without License?
A defence to this may arise where an accused had the weapon for the purposes of self-defence. Other defences include lack of intention to possess the firearm or a factual dispute as to whether the person possessed the firearm at all. Honest and reasonable mistake of belief as well as the concept of beyond reasonable doubt may also be used depending on the circumstances.

Questions in cases like this
  • Where you in possession of the firearm?
  • Do you have a valid license?
  • It what form was the firearm?

Depending on the category that the firearm is placed in, a maximum sentence for a finding of guilt will range from 2 years imprisonment or 120 penalty units ($19,342.00) to 600 penalty units ($96,714.00) or 7 years imprisonment. At the time of print 1 penalty unit is equivalent to $161.19.
 
Sentencing in the higher courts
The Victorian higher courts heard 32 charges of Non-prohibited Person Possess, Carry or Use a Category A Longarm – section 6(1) from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. Most of these charges resulted in imprisonment (65.6%) but there were also others that led to fines (15.6%), Community Correction Order (12.5%), and partially suspended sentence (6.2%).

All charges that led to imprisonment involved prison terms that were less than a year.1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts
In the Magistrates’ Courts, there were 318 cases (365 charges) of Non-prohibited Person Possess, Carry or Use a Category A Longarm – section 6(1),3 as well as 63 cases (72 charges) of Non-prohibited Person Possess, Carry or Use a Category B Longarm – section 6(2),4 that were heard from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. These cases led to a variety of sentences:

Non-prohibited Person Possess, Carry or Use a Category A Longarm – section 6(1):

  • Fine – 36.2%
  • Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 21.4%
  • Community Correction Order – 21.1%
  • Imprisonment – 13.5%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence – 6.0%
  • Partially Suspended Sentence – 1.3%
  • Youth Justice Centre Order – 0.6%
The highest prison term imposed was somewhere between 18 and 24 months (4.7%). The majority of those who were sentenced to imprisonment received a term that was between 3 and 6 months (34.9%).

The highest fine imposed was between $5,000 and $10,000 (2.0% for aggregate). The majority of those who were fined were in the “$1,000 < $2,000” category (33.1% for aggregate) and “Less than $500” category (6.8% for non-aggregate).5

Non-prohibited Person Possess, Carry or Use a Category B Longarm – section 6(2):

  • Fine – 30.2%
  • Community Correction Order – 25.4%
  • Imprisonment – 22.2%
  • Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 17.5%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence – 4.8%
The highest prison term imposed was somewhere between 12 and 18 months (7.1%). The majority of those who were sentenced to imprisonment received a term that was between 3 and 6 months (42.9%).

The highest fine imposed was between $4,000 and $5,000 (4.2% for aggregate). But the majority of those who were fined were in the “$500 < $1,000” category (29.2% for aggregate), and “$500 < $1,000” (4.2% for non-aggregate) as well as “$1,000 < $2,000” (4.2% for non-aggregate).6

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.7
 
Other important resources
[1] SACStat Higher Courts – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 6(1) – non-prohibited person possess, carry or use a category A longarm < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_96_66_6_1.html >
[2] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >
[3] SAC Statistics – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 6(1) – non-prohibited person possess, carry or use a category A longarm < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/96_66_6_1.html >
[4] SAC Statistics – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 6(2) – non-prohibited person possess, carry or use a category B longarm < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/96_66_6_2.html >
[5] SAC Statistics – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 6(1) – non-prohibited person possess, carry or use a category A longarm < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/96_66_6_1.html >
[6] SAC Statistics – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 6(2) – non-prohibited person possess, carry or use a category B longarm < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/96_66_6_2.html >
[7] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >