Stories about mass shootings and firearms offenses make their way into the headlines with alarming frequency, but there is much more to Virginia gun laws than you would ever read about in the news. Some statutes cover conduct you thought would be legal or impose penalties that are much harsher than you expect; other laws are new or have been amended to make significant changes. The complicated, often confusing legal landscape could put you in a difficult position if you were charged with a gun crime.
Unfortunately, not knowing the details of gun laws is not a defense nor excuse for violating them. Police still make arrests, and prosecutors will aggressively pursue the charges. Your best strategy for fighting the allegations is retaining a Virginia gun crimes defense attorney, but you should note some of the most surprising facts about gun laws in Virginia.
- You could violate Virginia gun laws through use or status. Many people associate firearms offenses with violent crime, but it is possible to break the law by brandishing a gun or discharging it – even when no one else is around. Plus, you could be arrested for possessing a gun based upon your status as a convicted felon, an undocumented individual, or person who has been adjudicated incapacitated by law.
- Virginia now has a “red flag” law. Following in the path of other US states, lawmakers have enacted a statute regarding Extreme Risk Protective Orders – sometimes referred to as “red flag” laws. Authorities can obtain a court order prohibiting you from possessing, purchasing, or transporting a gun if you pose a risk of harm to yourself or others. If you do not voluntarily relinquish them, officials can seize them pending a hearing.
- Felony charges apply to possession at a school or associated spaces. You may know that it is a crime to carry a gun at a school, but the laws are harsher than you might guess. It is a Class 6 Felony to be in possession of a firearm in areas and at events associated with school activities. The definition includes sports, school-sponsored functions, buses to events, and other extracurricular activities.
- Your rights are severely curtailed by a domestic violence protective order. When a person files a petition for a protective order related to domestic violence, the process automatically limits your Second Amendment rights. Virginia law prohibits you from purchasing or transporting a gun, and you may be required to surrender all firearms pending the outcome of the domestic violence case.
- An arrest for a drug-related offense could lead to additional gun crimes charges. If police have probable cause to search and arrest you for violating Virginia drug laws, you could also face charges for any gun you have in your possession at the time. The crime is a separate offense from any counts related to controlled substances. As a Class 6 Felony, you could face up to five years in prison, a fine, or both. Once you have a felony conviction on your criminal record, you will also have to contend with #1 above.
Contact a Virginia Gun Crimes Defense Lawyer Regarding Your Rights
If you were arrested under the above gun laws or any other firearms violation, it is essential to consult with an experienced attorney as early on in the criminal process as possible. Our team at Leary Law, P.C. can help with your defense, working out a plea agreement, and any other strategy to obtain the best possible outcome. To learn how we can assist with your case, so please contact our firm to set up a consultation at our offices in Manassas or Fairfax, VA.