Understanding the Federal Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban

Nevada and federal laws prohibit convicted felons from possessing guns — that is a fairly well-known fact. What many people do not know is that a federal law called the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban forbids anyone convicted of even a misdemeanor domestic violence charge and anyone under a restraining or protection order for domestic abuse from owning, possessing, transporting, or using guns or ammunition. The law is sometimes also referred to as the Lautenberg Amendment.

If you need to carry a gun for your employment, enjoy hunting, or want to have a gun to protect your home or any other important reason, you should be familiar with the provisions of the law. If you are charged with domestic violence or face a possible restraining order, and you are not aware of how a conviction or court order can affect your ability to own a gun, even a first offense could have a greater negative impact on your life than you anticipate.

Gun Prohibitions for Domestic Violence Offenders

The federal law prohibits ownership and use of guns and ammunition in two situations relating to domestic violence charges:

  • The person is convicted of a crime of domestic violence (regardless of whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony); or
  • The person is under a restraining or protection order for domestic abuse.

A person is considered to be convicted for purposes of the federal law whether the conviction occurs by guilty plea or by a verdict. For the restrictions to apply in a situation involving a restraining or protective order, there are several requirements that must be met:

  • The offender had to be given the opportunity for a hearing;
  • The offender and petitioner must be intimate partners;
  • The court order must restrain the offender from harassing, stalking, or threatening behavior;
  • The offender must be deemed a credible threat to the petitioner or be barred from use of physical force.

When Is the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban Lifted?

In the case of a restraining or protective order, the prohibition will last until the court order is terminated. A situation involving a conviction is more complicated.

A conviction for a domestic violence offense stays on a person’s record permanently. The ban continues until and unless the conviction is removed. In Nevada, that means having the criminal record sealed through a court process established by law.

For a misdemeanor domestic battery charge, the waiting period before a record can be sealed is seven (7) years. In order for the conviction to be sealed, the record must be eligible for sealing and the person must pursue the Nevada process for sealing a criminal record. Only if the process is successfully completed will the federal gun prohibition no longer apply.

An Experienced Nevada Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

There are several situations in which having capable legal counsel can help avoid or resolve issues involving the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban: The first is if you are facing a charge of domestic violence. If guns are part of your livelihood or otherwise important in your life, even a first time domestic violence charge must be taken very seriously. Defending against the charge by having capable legal representation may result in the charges being dismissed or at least negotiation of a plea bargain that involves a lesser offense that will not trigger the federal gun ban.

The second situation in which a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help is after a conviction has been on your record for a certain number of years. In those circumstances, getting the record sealed will lift the restrictions of the federal gun ban law. For a misdemeanor conviction, the waiting period is seven (7) years after release from jail or discharged from parole, whichever is later. For a felony conviction, the waiting period is ten (10) years after release from jail or discharged from parole, whichever is later.

Finally, in limited circumstances, when there is a conviction on a person’s record, there may be a possibility of filing an appeal or requesting post-conviction relief.

Talk With a Trusted Las Vegas Attorney for Domestic Violence Charges

Experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten has the background and knowledge to assist with any issue related to domestic violence charges or the federal Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. He defends Nevada residents and visitors on all federal and state criminal charges, including domestic violence and firearms and weapons charges. Attorney Gersten also assists clients with securing sealing of criminal records under Nevada law.

If you are facing domestic violence charges in Las Vegas or elsewhere in Clark County or wish to request assistance with sealing a criminal record, contact The Gersten Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.