gun and gavel

Explaining Gun Ownership Rights After a Domestic Violence Charge With a Virginia Defense Attorney

Domestic assault charges can have serious consequences. Penalties may include up to 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. A conviction can also impact your right to own a gun. State and federal firearm ownership laws are complex for people with misdemeanors and felonies. To gain clarity around your gun rights with a looming domestic violence conviction, consult with Cheseapeake criminal defense lawyer James E. Short

Firearm Rights With a Domestic Assault Conviction

Domestic violence charges can affect your legal rights to purchase, transport, and possess firearms. The limitations you face depend on the specifics of your case. You must take your domestic violence arrest seriously. Seemingly small changes can make a big difference in the penalties you may receive. 

If you are convicted of a felony in Virginia, you lose your right to buy and own a gun. Even if the domestic assault is not a felony, you can still lose your gun rights if the courts enact a final restraining or "no contact" order against you. Protective orders severely restrict your ability to contact your spouse and children. 

No contact orders generally only apply to family abuse against spouses and people with children in common. It may not include dating partners who have not recently lived together. Within 24 hours of being served with the restraining order, you must surrender your guns to law enforcement, a licensed gun dealer, or someone not prohibited from possessing firearms. 

Virginia Law Changes in 2021 Regarding Gun Ownership

Under the previous law, someone convicted of assault and battery against a family or household member would not lose their gun rights. This law changed in 2021.

Code of Virginia § 18.2-308.1:8 now states that anyone convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor would also lose their right to purchase, possess, and transport a firearm. This new law came into effect for all offenses on or after July 1, 2021. After three years, your gun rights will be restored as long as you are not disqualified for another reason. 

When You Can and Cannot Own a Firearm

Your gun rights may be affected in some cases of domestic violence but not in others.

You may lose your right to own a gun if you are:

  • Convicted of a Class 6 felony domestic assault
  • Convicted of assault and battery against a family or household member 
  • Convicted of two misdemeanor drug offenses in three years
  • Subject to a final protective order
  • Acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity
  • Declared legally incompetent by the courts.

You may retain your gun ownership rights if you are:

  • Convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors
  • Convicted of domestic assault against a dating partner
  • Subject to an ex parte restraining order.

An ex parte restraining order does not bar you from owning a gun. However, Code of Virginia § 18.2-308.1:4 does prohibit you from buying or transporting any firearms. Violation of this law is a Class 1 misdemeanor. 

Protect Your Gun Rights With a Virginia Domestic Assault Lawyer

Notably, your husband or wife cannot drop domestic violence charges if they change their mind. The criminal case can still proceed with possibly dire consequences for you. You can face significant jail time, a permanent criminal record, and child custody challenges. You need a criminal defense attorney as a crucial ally through this difficult process.

Meet with experienced attorney James Short to formulate possible defenses, such as challenging the lawfulness of the arrest or pointing toward a lack of evidence. Self-defense and defense of others are other possible defenses. Have faith that James Short will do everything in his power to support you. 

“Mr. Short had the confidence to intelligently review the facts and circumstances of my case and craft a comprehensive legal strategy,” writes DLR from Chesapeake. “I am unhesitant in recommending Mr. Short as your clear first choice!”