Being convicted of a crime comes with penalties. While these penalties may include potential jail or prison sentences, probation, and fines (which can vary from case to case), they can also include other collateral consequences, including a loss of one’s civil rights. For example, certain convictions can prevent certain offenders from voting or from serving on a jury. Some can also bar convicted individuals from purchasing and possessing firearms.
When it comes to driving under the influence (DUI), there is always the potential for severe and life-altering penalties and repercussions. This includes losing one’s right to own a firearm. Under both California state law and federal laws, individuals convicted of certain offenses, as well as individuals who have even just been accused of certain crimes, can lose their firearm rights. This is true of DUI, but only if certain factors apply.
In order to understand what types of DUI charges can result in a loss of your gun rights, it’s important to first understand who is deemed a “prohibited person” under federal and state laws. Common examples of a “prohibited person” include:
- Convicted felons
- Persons convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, or who are subject to a domestic restraining order
- Persons indicted for crimes that carry a minimum 1-year term of imprisonment
- Fugitives from justice
- Individuals addicted to any controlled substance
- Individuals with certain mental illnesses
- Illegal residents of the U.S.
- Former military members who have been dishonorably discharged
Based on these laws, most individuals convicted of a standard misdemeanor DUI in California will not lose their rights to own a firearm. However, there are a few situations where a DUI can result in the loss of civil rights and the ability to own a gun. These include:
- 4th DUI – A fourth DUI conviction within 10 years is a felony in California. Per state and federal laws, that means a person convicted of four or more DUIs in a 10-year time period would be barred from purchasing and owning any firearm.
- Felony DUI – Similarly, any person convicted of a felony DUI offense, even if it is their first DUI-related charge or criminal conviction, will lose their right to own a firearm. In California, you can be charged with felony DUI for not only have three prior DUI convictions, but also for DUI that results in injury or death, in addition to being convicted of a felony DUI at any time in your past.
- Military service – Some members of the armed forces can face adverse repercussions when they are convicted of crimes. While a first-time DUI offense may not necessarily warrant a dishonorable discharge, multiple DUI convictions (including a second or third offense) or DUI charges involving serious and aggravating factors could result in being discharged dishonorably from the military. This could prohibit that individual from owning a firearm.
- Other crimes – If your DUI offense involved other crimes, such as a drug crime or even a domestic violation charge, it is possible that you can face charges and convictions that would prohibit you from owning a firearm. For example, a person who has been charged with driving under the influence of drugs, and has a history of drug abuse and drug-related crimes, may be declared a prohibited person under California and federal firearm laws.
- Fugitive from Justice – You can be declared a prohibited person if you become a fugitive from justice. This means failing to show at court appearances and having a warrant issued for your arrest, even if the underlying charge is just a standard misdemeanor DUI, could make you a prohibited person under state and federal laws.
The terms of bans for gun possession can vary depending on the circumstances. For felony convictions, there is generally a lifetime ban, unless the crime is considered a “wobbler” and is later reduced to a misdemeanor (after which the person can petition to restore their gun rights). Some misdemeanor convictions will also result in a lifetime ban, while others may carry a prohibition on firearm ownership for 10 years (such as assault and battery).
Losing your right to purchase and own a firearm is a significant consequence for being convicted of a serious crime, and it can subject you to additional charges and penalties if you violate the prohibition. In California, for example, it is illegal to possess or own a firearm as a convicted felon. Felony in possession of a firearm is a felony offense, and it punishable by 16 months or between 2 to 3 years imprisonment, in addition to up to $10,000 in fines.
Protect Your Rights & Future with Experienced Defense Attorneys
Protecting your rights and future is critical after you have been charged with any DUI or criminal offense, and especially if those charges are felonies or other serious allegations. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys pool decades of collective experience to fight for our clients’ futures, and to help them avoid or mitigate penalties and long-term consequences whenever possible. We also have experience representing clients charged with various weapons offenses, and can help you better understand the charges and penalties you face when you reach out for help.
To discuss your case and learn how our DUI and criminal defense attorneys can help you, contact us today. We proudly serve clients throughout the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, and Southern California, and are available 24/7 to take your call.