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Being Accused Of A Domestic Violence Crime Can Lose You Your Firearm Rights In Washington

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2016 | Domestic Violence

Have you been accused of domestic violence assault in Pierce County / Tacoma or other parts of Washington? You  may have just discovered that a domestic violence charge may also threaten your firearm rights. Almost every citizen is aware of the second amendment and that it gives Americans the right to “bear arms”. So, it is the right of Americans to own guns. However it’s a right that both state and federal government have the power and authority to regulate. As many already know – if you are convicted of a felony you no longer have the right to possess or use a firearm. This is true both at the state and federal levels and is true whether the crime is classified as domestic violence or not. What many may not also realize is that even misdemeanors, if classified as domestic violence, also bar you from owning or using firearms. That is also true at both the state and federal levels – although the definition for domestic violence is slightly different between Washington state law and federal law.

The prohibition is for your lifetime unless you get the right restored in Superior Court. This is not impossible but it’s also not easy. It involves following all probation requirements and filing the restoration case with the Superior Court. Plus it involves a waiting period, after the close of the case which can commonly take five years if you do not have the assistance of a lawyer, of 3 years for a misdemeanor domestic violence crime and five years for a felony whether domestic violence or not. If you are found to have a gun at any point prior to getting your rights restored you will likely be charged with “unlawful possession of a firearm” which is a felonya both The state and the federal level.

There are a couple exceptions to these seemingly blanket restrictions. First, if the crime was not assault but was only a property crime like malicious mischief then the judge is not required to issue the prohibition of firearms. If this fits your situation then this may help you. But notice that he is simply not required to; he is still permitted to. So you will want to discuss this possible defense strategy for your gun rights with your defense attorney to make sure it would be appropriate for your specific situation. Also, Washington state law defines domestic violence as any crime committed against anyone with whom you have had a familial or living relationship, but federal law defines domestic violence as a crime committed against someone with whom you have had a familial or familial-type relationship.  So if, for example, your situation involves a dispute with a roommate you may be able to avoid the federal prohibition on firearms and only concern yourself with the state prohibition. That’s at least half the battle.

You may now be wondering, “But what if I’m a security guard or a police officer or in the military? My job requires me to own and use a firearm. Surely there is some sort of exception!” It may make sense to a lot of people – after all there are exceptions made for this kind of situation in many laws such as DUI laws that require you to install an ignition interlock device but still allow you to drive a company car if your job requires it. Unfortunately, this particular law has no such exceptions. If you are in a profession that requires you to use a firearm it usually means you will lose your job at least during the probationary period. And remember that the probationary period is 3-5 years. It’s unusual for an employer to hold a job open that long and with the military there would not be a way to reinstate you after such a long absence. Your best option is to use a defense strategy that will give you the best chance to get the charges dismissed, get a not guilty verdict or use one of the above options that will at least retain your gun rights.

You need to discuss what your best defense strategy is Your Pierce County /Tacoma domestic violence defense attorney  at Smith & White to get your best result possible. Call us today – time is never on your side.