Virginia Firearm Charges

Virginia Firearm Charges

Virginia Firearm Charges

The state of Virginia takes offenses involving firearms very seriously. If you are facing firearms charges, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced Virginia criminal law attorney to help you with your case.  Here are some questions people often have about firearm charges in Virginia:

Can You Buy a Gun with a Misdemeanor in Virginia?

In most cases, yes, unless the misdemeanor involved domestic violence (assault and battery against a family member) and occurred on or after July 1, 2021. You also cannot buy a gun if you were acquitted of certain misdemeanors by reason of insanity. There are also restrictions to purchase a gun based on mental health or capacity status or diagnosis.

Aside from misdemeanors, most people convicted of a felony cannot buy a gun unless their rights are restored by the Circuit Court. To have your rights restored see ARTICLE. (You can also have your rights restored by a pardon with no restrictions on your ability to purchase a gun, but this is much less common.) If you are interested in trying to have your rights restored following a felony conviction, your lawyer can advise you on what, if any, options are available in your situation.

Where Do I Find a Virginia Firearm Purchase Form?

In order to buy firearms in Virginia, you will need to fill out the appropriate forms and complete a background check. There are separate forms for handguns, concealed handguns, machine guns, and multiple handguns. You can find the forms on the Virginia State Police website, and they should be submitted to the Circuit Court in your jurisdiction.

What Weapons are Illegal in Virginia?

There are several kinds of weapons that are prohibited entirely, but there are also numerous situations where weapons are prohibited in certain settings, such as in or near a school or daycare property, in houses of worship, and in courthouses. Here is a list of banned weapons in Virginia:

  • Plastic firearms. This does not refer to toys, but to actual fire-able weapons with a low enough metal content that they cannot be noticed by metal detectors.
  • Trigger activators. This refers to an apparatus that causes a semi-automatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with only one pull of the trigger.
  • Striker-12, also known as a “streetsweeper,” or similar semi-automatic weapons. The Streetsweeper is a folding stock shotgun with a spring tension drum magazine that can hold twelve shotgun shells.

How Much Prison Time Will You Get for a Charge of Illegal Possession of a Firearm in Virginia?

If you are illegally in possession of a firearm, whether it is an illegal weapon or you are not legally in possession of an otherwise legal firearm, you could face serious charges and sentences. How much jail/prison time you could get if convicted depends on the specific offense, and it may also be dependent on any other criminal history you have. There are many firearm charges that can carry mandatory time for a conviction. If you have been charged with illegally possessing a gun in Virginia for any reason, we recommend contacting a Virginia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to improve your chances of winning your case.

Here are a few examples of gun crimes in Virginia and the potential punishments:

  • Possession of a firearm after a felony conviction is considered a Class 6 felony in Virginia, and it is punishable by one to five years in prison.
  • Possession of a firearm on school property is also a Class 6 felony with similar potential prison time. Possessing other weapons, such as stun guns and most knives, on school property is usually charged as a misdemeanor.
  • Displaying a firearm while committing a felony is a separate felony charge from the original felony. It can result in three years in prison for a first offense and up to five for a second offense. These are often served concurrently with prison time for the other felony.
  • Discharging a gun in a building is usually a Class 4 felony, but if the gun injures and kills a person, it could be upgraded to involuntary manslaughter. In some cases, if the gun wasn’t discharged “maliciously,” and no one was killed, the crime may be charged as a Class 6 felony. If charged as a Class 4 felony, discharging a gun in a building may carry a sentence of two to ten years with up to a $100,000 fine.
  • Possession of a firearm with possession of drugs is a Class 6 felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of two years.
  • Carrying a concealed weapon without the appropriate permit as a first offense gun charge in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a potential sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A second offense will be prosecuted as a Class 6 felony, and further offenses will be pursued as Class 5 felonies. Here “weapon” includes guns as well as switchblades, brass knuckles, and other weapons laid out in the statute.
  • Brandishing a firearm or waving or pointing a gun in a threatening manner at another person or people, is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the brandishing occurs on any school property, it may be upgraded to a Class 6 felony, which could be punishable by one to five years in prison.
  • In some situations, there are mandatory minimum sentences if you are convicted of certain firearms charges. For example, if you possess and brandish, threaten to use, or have intent to use a firearm on school property, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Do I Need a Private Attorney or Can I Just Get a Public Defender for Firearms Charges?

You always have the right to a public defender, free of charge, if you have been charged with any kind of crime where the prosecutor is seeking jail time. While public defenders work very hard to help their clients, they are often limited in terms of time, budget, and other resources. A private lawyer may have fewer clients and more resources at their disposal for your defense and often has less caseload.

What are Virginia Gun Laws on Private Property?

Private property owners are allowed to restrict whether guests are able to carry firearms that are otherwise legal on their property. Whether or not it is legal to discharge a firearm may depend on location and local ordinances. It is generally illegal to discharge a firearm in or at a building and in most public places or occupied buildings. (This can be charged differently depending on whether the discharge was “malicious” or intentional, and also whether anyone was hurt or killed).

In residential areas, you should check local statutes before firing a weapon in your own backyard. In some rural or unincorporated areas, it is legal if your residence is a certain distance away from other buildings/people. If you live in a city with close neighbors, it is probably not legal, and even if it is, it likely is not the best idea. In this situation, it would be safer to go to a gun range, if you want to do some target practice.

Discharging a rifle or shotgun in areas where it is legal to hunt, or on private property where you have the owner’s permission to hunt, is usually legal. However, it is recommended that you take a gun safety course and follow best practices to reduce the risk of accidental injuries.

What Should You Do If You’re Facing Firearms Charges in Virginia?

Any weapons charge should be taken seriously, and you should consult a Virginia criminal law attorney right away – it is important to get started on your defense strategy as soon as possible. The more time you and your attorney have to go over your case and prepare, the better.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a firearms crime, please contact us at Lugar Law for a free consultation. If we take your case, we’ll explain your options, go over the evidence in the case, and develop a strong strategy for fighting your charges.