Unpacking of seized handgun by criminologist

Domestic Violence Crimes: Can the Government take my guns?

Domestic violence crimes carry a number of collateral consequences that many people may not be aware of. In Minnesota, if you’ve been charged with a certain type of crime, such as a domestic violence offense, you risk losing your Second Amendment right to possess a firearm if you’re ultimately found guilty of the charged crime or, in some cases, a less serious variation of the crime. This loss of rights includes losing the right to own or possess firearms at any time – even for hunting.

You can lose your right to possess a firearm under Federal Law, for life, if you’re convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses – even if that misdemeanor is something as innocuous as disorderly conduct. Under Federal Law, as enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Hayes, what matters is there was a “domestic relationship” in the offense to which you plead guilty.

In simpler terms, what this means is that if you’re charged with a crime in which a domestic relationship is present between you and the victim (such as domestic assault, or even violating an order for protection in place by an ex-wife), even if the charge is later reduced to an offense that does not require a domestic relationship (such as disorderly conduct), you can still lose your right to possess a firearm unless your criminal defense attorney carefully crafts the plea so that no elements of the plea admit to conduct that would result in losing your Federal firearm rights. Under Federal law, domestic violence crimes carry serious collateral consequences.

Similarly, you can lose your right to possess a firearm under Minnesota law for certain convictions. Under Minnesota, if you’re convicted of any felony, you lose your right to possess a firearm, unless and until your civil rights are restored. This includes felonies that are completely unrelated to firearm possession. For example, if you’re convicted of a felony for issuing a worthless check, you can lose your right to possess a firearm.

Of course, certain crimes result in a person losing their right to own a firearm under both Federal law and Minnesota law. For example, if you plead guilty to felony domestic assault, or felony terroristic threats, or any felony where the victim is someone in a “domestic relationship” with you, then you lose your right to possess a firearm under both Federal law and Minnesota law. A “domestic relationship” is most simply described as one’s relationship with either a family member, roommate, or romantic partner.

If you’ve been charged with a crime that you think may result in loss of your firearm rights, under either Federal law or Minnesota law you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before deciding how to proceed with your case. If you’ve already been convicted of a crime that has resulted in the loss of your firearm rights under either Federal or State law, you may be able to get your firearm rights restored, eventually, but the process is very complicated.

If you’d like to get started on the process of regaining your Second Amendment rights, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Don’t let being charged with a domestic violence crime take away your Second Amendment rights.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.