How Does a Domestic Violence Matter Affect Gun Rights?

A domestic violence arrest or conviction can cause you to lose your gun rights for a certain length of time or for life. The firearm prohibition results from both state and federal laws. The California government provides that a person is banned from purchasing or owning a gun if they have a restraining order against them for as long as the order is in effect. It also forbids an individual from having a gun if they were convicted of domestic violence. The ban can last for 10 years to life, depending on the situation. Similarly, the federal government says that a person with certain restraining orders against them or convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence is subject to lifetime firearm restriction.

Possessing a gun while prohibited – whether by state or federal law – has serious consequences. Being found guilty of the offense can result in confinement and fines.

If you have been accused of domestic violence, allow our Los Angeles attorneys to review your case and determine what defenses we may raise to protect your rights. ContactLessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160.

California’s Laws Prohibiting Gun Possession for DV Matters

In California, domestic violence involves causing or threatening to cause harm to someone with whom the alleged actor is in an intimate relationship.

Intimate relationships include those between:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • Cohabitants or former cohabitants
  • People with a child together
  • Individuals related by blood or marriage

If it is alleged that someone has committed an act of violence or attempted or threatened violence against a family or household member, that individual may be subject to a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) immediately or soon after their arrest. A DVRO protects the alleged victim from future harm by placing conditions on the alleged actor. One condition may be a prohibition from having or purchasing a gun. The firearm restriction is in place for as long as the DVRO is valid.

Effective dates of DVROs depend on the type rendered:

  • 7 days for an emergency protective order
  • 20 or 25 days for a temporary restraining order
  • 5 years for a permanent restraining order

Under California Family Code § 6389, if a person is subject to a DVRO, they must surrender their firearm(s) immediately or within 24 hours of being served the order. Violating the terms of a DVRO by failing to give up any guns or purchasing new ones is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 (California Penal Code §29825).

Gun restrictions can be imposed not only after a domestic violence arrest but also following a conviction. California Penal Code § 29805 provides that a person convicted of a violent misdemeanor can be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms for 10 years. The ban would be for the individual’s life if they were convicted of a misdemeanor offense of inflicting corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a spouse or former spouse, cohabitant or former cohabitant, fiancé(e), or person they share a child with.

Possessing or purchasing a gun when prohibited – either for 10 years or life – is punishable by jail for up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

In matters concerning a felony-level domestic violence conviction resulting in the loss of gun rights, possessing or purchasing a firearm during the prohibition period is also a felony. The potential penalties include up to 3 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.

The Federal Government’s Laws for Possessing Firearms for DV Matters

The federal government’s laws concerning the possession or acquisition of firearms following a domestic violence offense are similar to those of California.

To illustrate, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) says that a person is banned from having a gun if they are subject to a restraining order for engaging in any of the following against an intimate partner:

  • Harassing,
  • Stalking,
  • Threatening, or
  • Placing in fear of reasonable harm.

Intimate partners include spouses or former spouses, cohabitants or former cohabitants, or people who have a child in common.

Section 922(g) also provides that convictions for misdemeanor domestic violence crimes result in the loss of gun rights. The federal government defines domestic violence as an offense with an element involving “the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.”

Whereas California law prohibits gun possession for up to 10 years in some situations, federal law places a lifetime ban regardless of the circumstances.

Under federal law, owning, receiving, or purchasing a firearm while under disability is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine.

Schedule a Consultation with an Attorney Today

Whether you were arrested for or convicted of domestic violence, your rights are at stake. You can seek to avoid penalties, such as the loss of gun rights, by challenging the accusations against you and working toward a favorable outcome. A criminal defense lawyer can assist with building and presenting your legal strategy.

To speak with one of our Los Angeles team members at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, please call (800) 462-7160 or submit an online contact form today.