Domestic violence charges are treated harshly by state and federal courts. So harshly, in fact, that even a misdemeanor charge could have you lose your constitutional right to own firearms. Due to a federal law banning firearms ownership and possession for misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, you can face serious consequences if you are caught with one after your conviction.
If you have been convicted of domestic violence, you may lose the right to own firearms legally, which is why it’s crucial to secure the services of a criminal defense attorney as soon as you become aware of criminal charges against you.
Domestic Violence Gun Law Overview
Federal law prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition by those who have been convicted of misdemeanor and felony domestic violence offenses, and some persons who are subject to certain domestic violence protective orders. The Lautenberg Amendment of 1996 was adopted to close a loophole of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which barred people convicted of felony offenses from owning guns. After realizing that many felony domestic offenses were plead down to misdemeanors, this act was adopted to additionally target those with misdemeanor convictions. The Act defines a misdemeanor domestic violence crime as one that is a federal, state or tribal law misdemeanor and incorporates the use or intended use of force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon as an element. In addition, the offender must meet these qualifications:
- Be a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim
- Share a child in common with the victim
- Be a current or former cohabitant with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian
Misdemeanor domestic violence convictions are the third most frequent cause of firearm purchase application denials by the FBI, after felony convictions and outstanding arrest warrants. Approximately 110,000 people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor were denied the purchase of a firearm due to this law in 2014.
Penalties for Owning Firearms with a Domestic Violence Conviction
Federal law has made it a felony offense to have firearms with a domestic violence conviction. If police catch you with guns, and you have a domestic violence conviction on your record, you could face the following severe penalties:
- Up to 10 years in a state prison
- Up to 10 years of probation
- A fine of up to $250,000
It is crucial to work with an attorney who has defended domestic violence charges the moment you discover you have been charged with a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony crime.
The Supreme Court Supports Gun Bans for Domestic Violence
The Supreme Court recently heard a case in which two men accused of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses attempted to establish a hierarchy of domestic violence crimes in which low-level misdemeanor offenses would not be barred from owning firearms. In Voisine v. United States, the two defendants, Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong III, argued that they should continue to be allowed to own guns considering they pleaded guilty to “reckless” acts of violence which were misdemeanor offenses, rather than premeditated, intentional acts. Upon the hearing, the Supreme Court held that the federal gun ban clearly includes reckless acts. If these acts were excluded from the Lautenberg Amendment, it would render that amendment meaningless.
These harsh laws are put in place to protect real victims of domestic violence. Studies show that firearms are responsible for over 60% incurred by domestic violence. Such laws are associated with a significant reduction of intimate partner gun deaths; yet oftentimes, the legal system is not fair to those who are wrongly accused.
Defend Your Gun Rights in West Palm Beach
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence crime, you stand to lose your constitutional gun rights for life. For the best possible chance of a successful outcome to your domestic violence case, speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney like Brian Gabriel who handles violent criminal offenses, including misdemeanor and felony domestic violence charges. Call 561-622-5575 or contact The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel to schedule a free consultation.