Recently on our legal forum a user asked, I have recently been convicted of a felony DUI. I understand that there are severe penalties and high fines for this offense. I am wondering, however, if I will be able to still own a gun?
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law in every state. If you have been charged and convicted of DUI you can expect a variety of penalties: potential jail time, high fines, potential probation, potential installation of an ignition interlock device, alcohol assessment and education classes, and a license suspension.
What many other drivers do not realize, however, is that there are other penalties and consequences for DUI. For example, most DUI convictions cannot be expunged from a drivers driving record, a DUI may limit your job opportunities, and a felony DUI conviction will also eliminate your right to own a gun.
Can I own a gun after a felony DUI?
Although the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right for US citizens, which is protected by the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States, the Federal Gun Control Act (GCA), established in 1968, precludes certain groups of individuals from owning and possessing a firearm.
Specifically, the GCA disqualifies anyone convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding a year, fugitives, drug addicts, mental incompetents, illegal aliens, those dishonorably discharged from the armed services, and those who have renounced their United States citizenship.
Although state and federal laws can be complicated, its generally best to assume that if you have a felony DUI you will not have the right to bear arms. If there is any questions about your rights you need to complete a thorough review of the federal arms statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer.
What about misdemeanor DUI convictions which carry a high prison sentence?
Misdemeanor convictions, even if they carry a maximum two year prison sentence are not subject to the federal gun ban. Federal statute 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B), specifically addresses this issue and states that a "crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" does not include "any State offense classified by the laws of the State as a misdemeanor and punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less."
What if I did not know about the federal arms ban laws?
Unfortunately, ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. In fact, according to a decision made by the Fourth Circuit Court in United States v. Mitchell, the court found that a defendant could be found guilty of an offense even if he had no knowledge of the federal law. The court decided he only had to know that he was a convicted felon and he had knowledge he possessed a gun.
Can I have my rights to own a gun restored after a felony DUI?
Although laws indicate it is possible to have your rights to gun ownership restored if you are able to have your conviction expunged or pardoned, most felony DUI convictions cannot be expunged so its unlikely you will ever be able to own a gun.
The confusion, complexity and severity of US gun laws remind me of this famous quote by Ayn Rand:
"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? Just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers."
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