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Criminal Convictions and Gun Rights

Posted in Criminal Law on March 21, 2015

Which crimes can affect my gun ownership or gun possession rights?

Most people have a basic understanding that federal law makes it illegal to possess a firearm if you have been convicted of a (1) state or federal felony, (2) any state felony for which you were in jail for longer than one year, (3) any misdemeanor crime involving domestic violence, or (4) any misdemeanor offense potentially punishable by imprisonment for more than two years.

Unfortunately, your rights to possess a firearm can also be limited in certain situations that do not involve convictions.  These situations include those in which you (1) have been adjudicated to be “mentally defective” within the past five years, (2) have been committed involuntarily to a mental institution within the past five years, (3) are subject to a restraining order, TRO, or stay way order that prohibits you from stalking, harassing or threatening either your partner, child or your partner’s child, (4) are an undocumented immigrant, (5)  received a dishonorable discharge from the military, (6) are being currently charged with a felony, (7) have an active criminal warrant, or (8) have an addiction to any controlled substance.

California law furthers bans you from ever[1] possessing a firearm if you (1) have been convicted of any felony, unless it was later reduced to a misdemeanor, (2) have two or more convictions for brandishing a firearm, (3) are addicted to any narcotic, or (4) have been convicted of any number of “violent” offenses, including murder, rape, lewd acts on a child under the age of 14 years, and felony in which a gun was used, or great bodily injury was inflicted.[2]  Additionally, in California you face a ten-year ban on possessing a gun if you have a misdemeanor conviction for crimes such as assault, battery, assault with a deadly weapon, witness intimidation, threatening public officials, discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, or drawing or exhibiting a firearm in a deadly manner.

The list of crimes, above, affecting your gun rights is not meant to be exclusive, but merely cites the most common crimes seen in our area. If you have a criminal conviction and would like to know for sure whether you are allowed to purchase or possess a firearm you can file an application with the Department of Justice. Once you have completed this form, you need to submit it to the Department of Justice with a copy of your fingerprints, as instructed.

What do I need to know if I have a conviction for one of the crimes mentioned above?

If you have a conviction for one of the crimes mentioned above, the first thing you need to understand is what a prohibition on gun possession means. What it means is that, first and foremost, you should not purchase or attempt to purchase guns or ammunition. You should not live in or stay at a house in which anyone has guns or ammunition on the property. You should not get into a car with anyone who has guns or ammunition with them.

Further, be aware that having your conviction expunged does not reinstate your right to possess a firearm.

The laws surrounding gun ownership and possession in California can be complex. In short, if you are unsure if your criminal conviction has affected your rights to own or possess firearms, do not attempt to purchase a gun. If you’ve been charged with a weapons charge in Sonoma County, contact our Santa Rosa weapons charges lawyers today.

For more information, see www.ag.ca.gov/firearms

[1] If you were convicted of any of the offenses listed here as a juvenile, you are prohibited from possession of a firearm until you are 30 years old.

[2] For a complete list of “violent offenses” see California Penal Code § 29905.