Virginia has relatively strict gun laws, and our state legislature made them even tighter in 2020. Firearms offenses can bring heavy penalties, often carrying felony charges. If you’re a gun owner, staying aware of changing laws and regulations is essential. But even responsible gun owners can make mistakes. If you’re charged with a firearm offense, excellent legal representation is vital to protecting your reputation, preserving your civil rights and avoiding jail time.
What Are Common Firearm Offenses in Virginia?
A firearm is defined as a weapon designed, made, and intended to expel a projectile through an explosion. In Virginia, the term covers most guns, from assault rifles to handguns. Many firearms charges in Virginia involve possessing a firearm in places or conditions that are not allowed by law. Other charges pertain to violating the concealed carry restrictions, such as being under the influence of alcohol with a concealed weapon or possessing a firearm and illegal drugs. While Virginia is an open carry state, our concealed carry permits come with certain regulations that must be followed. Illegally possessing a firearm is often a felony in Virginia. A firearms conviction can have personal and professional ramifications and prevent you from owning a gun.
Common possession charges include:
- Possession of a gun in prohibited places, including places of worship, courthouses, airports and on school property.
- Possession of banned firearms, including machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and plastic firearms.
- Possessing a firearm when in possession of certain drugs.
- Possession of certain firearms by a minor.
- Possession of a firearm by someone convicted of a felony.
- Possession by someone with a permanent protective order.
Guns and kids: Virginia’s new gun laws increased the penalty for recklessly leaving a loaded firearm around children under the age of 14 from a Class 3 misdemeanor with a $500 fine to a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries the possibility of up to 12 months of jail time.
Violation of concealed handgun laws: Virginia is an open carry state, but you have to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. You can face criminal charges if you carry a concealed weapon without a license. It’s generally a misdemeanor on the first offense but still carries a punishment of up to 12 months in jail. A second offense is a felony with a prison sentence of up to five years.
In Virginia, using a firearm in the commission of a felony is a separate crime punishable by mandatory minimum jail time. This means you could have several criminal convictions for the same crime, with separate sentences for the crime and using a gun. A conviction for using or displaying a firearm in the commission of a felony brings a mandatory three-year jail sentence.
How Can My Attorney Help With Firearms Charges?
When used legally, guns are valuable tools and a means of self-defense for many Virginians. However, if you misuse a firearm, fail to comply with regulations or obtain necessary permits, you can be arrested and charged. A firearms conviction can bring enormous consequences, including jail time, heavy fines and losing your right to own a gun in the future. Hiring an experienced defense attorney can help you protect your record, preserve your rights and avoid jail time. As always in a criminal case, the burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt. We can often get charges dropped or reduced with the following strategies:
- Underscore innocent mistakes and remorse from the accused.
- Highlight your personal history as a responsible citizen and gun owner, often succeeding in getting charges dropped to a misdemeanor for first-time offenders.
- Take advantage of gray areas when it comes to possession.
- Identify potential police mistakes or misconduct.
As with every criminal case, the seasoned attorneys at the Laurel Brigade Law Group believe everyone is entitled to a vigorous criminal defense. We understand that even responsible gun owners make mistakes and will work tirelessly to identify all potentially mitigating factors to protect your reputation and civil rights.