If your family member, household member, or dating partner accuses you of abusing or harming them, you may be ordered to surrender any firearms you own or possess. There are two instances in which you may be subject to this gun rights restriction: when the alleged victim seeks a domestic violence restraining order against you, or at the conclusion of your criminal case (if you are found guilty of the alleged offense). Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to restore your rights after a specific amount of time passes, and you have asked the court to lift the restriction.
Firearm Surrender as Part of a Protective Order
In domestic violence matters, the alleged victim can submit a complaint to a family court to ask for an order of protection. If the judge grants the request, among other conditions, you may be order to surrender any guns you have in your possession or care. Additionally, you would not be allowed to purchase or receive firearms while the protective order is in effect.
If you are subject a gun restriction as part of a protective order, you must give your firearms to a local law enforcement agency or federally licensed gun dealer within 24 hours of receiving notice of the requirement to surrender your guns. Within 72 hours of being subject to the protective order, you must provide proof to the court that you complied with the condition or that you did not have any guns in your possession or care at the time of the offense.
Your gun rights can be restored after the protective order expires and you have documentation from the court confirming this and no other matter prevents you from possessing firearms.
You may also petition the court to have the protective order modified and request that the firearm prohibition be lifted. In this situation, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether or not to grant your request.
The judge will consider various factors in modification matters, including, but not limited to:
- The initial complaint filed
- Your criminal history
- Your mental health
- Whether or not you violated the protective order
If the court decides that your possessing a firearm would not pose a danger to yourself or others, they may order the prohibition be lifted even if the protective order is still in effect.
Firearm Surrender as Part of a Criminal Case
In a domestic violence matter, you may also be subject to a revocation of your firearm rights if you are convicted of or plead nolo contendere to an offense charged as a felony. As with the restrictions placed when a protective order is granted, if you are convicted of a crime, you cannot possess, own, carry, or purchase a gun.
You must surrender your firearms to a local law enforcement agency or federally licensed firearms dealer within 24 hours. Within 48 hours of the order, you must provide proof to the court that you complied or that you did not have any guns in your possession.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to file a motion to have your firearm rights restored. This can be done 5 years after you have completed your sentence. To be eligible for relief, you must not have been convicted of a crime during that 5-year period. If you did plead guilty or were convicted of an offense during that time, the firearm restriction would be extended for an additional 6 years.
Before the court decides whether or not to grant relief, it will schedule you for a hearing, during which you may present your arguments for lifting the restriction.
If you're involved in a domestic violence matter, it's imperative to seek skilled legal representation immediately. At The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq., our experienced Rhode Island attorney can provide the defense you need to fight the accusations and work toward a favorable outcome to minimize or avoid penalties. Call us at (401) 312-4385 or contact us online today.