Virginia Gun Attorney
In Virginia, there are several laws outlining who can own, possess, or carry guns, and relevant restrictions that limit the situations in which citizens are able to carry weapons. The range of offenses that fall within the Commonwealth’s gun laws is varied, and includes provisions that for specially regulated weapons and ammunition and guns that are used in drug-related crimes. Those who may be exempt from the vast majority of these laws are law enforcement officials who are performing their official duties and individuals who are acting in justifiable self-defense. Some of the commonly prosecuted firearm offenses include, but are not limited to:
- Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit – which is a misdemeanor for the first offense but becomes a felony upon second and subsequent offenses.
- Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon – a felony offense that requires mandatory minimum sentencing.
- Use of a firearm in the commission of a felony – which is a felony offense with mandatory minimum sentencing separate from the felony crime in which the gun was used or displayed.
The Commonwealth of Virginia takes gun offenses very seriously because of the effect that these types of weapons can have on the lives of innocent bystanders. While most people keep firearms legally, with the correct permits and well within the confines of the law, there are some people that either do not have the correct permits for their weapons, or who own firearms that are illegal in Virginia. There is, of course, a chance that you were not aware that the gun was illegal in the state, or you simply didn’t understand the laws and how they apply to the firearms you own. The Commonwealth will likely still prosecute you even if your violation was accidental.
Virginia’s gun laws are also complex, and as such can be difficult to understand. Factors that may come into play include the circumstances surrounding your arrest, and the prior criminal record of the accused, among many other things. To better understand the range of charges and penalties that may apply, please refer to the following information.
Shooting Guns Unlawfully
There are a number of laws that fall within this category, but in general terms it is illegal to discharge a firearm in public spaces and inside buildings. There are specific provision for situations in which individuals discharge weapons across roads or from a vehicle.
Discharging a Gun Inside or at a Building
You may be found guilty of this offense if you fire a gun inside or in the direction of a building that is occupied. The circumstances surround ding the discharge of the weapon and where exactly the weapon was fired determine the penalty for this offense. You can find more information in Section 18.2-279.
If the discharging of the weapon was found to have included malicious intent or the intention of doing harm to another person, the offense rises to a Class 4 felony and, as such, penalties may include two to 10 years in prison and fines up to $100,000. If the shooting results in a death, then you may face a charge of second degree murder. If prosecutors can prove that the malicious shooting was part of a deliberate and premeditated slaying, then you will face a conviction of first degree murder or, in some cases, capital murder. A charge of capital murder may result in the death penalty.
If, however, the gun was fired without malice, you will face a charge of a Class 6 felony. A conviction of such a charge can result in one to five years in prison or, at the discretion of a jury or the judge, lesser penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. See Section 18.2-10(f). A death resulting from this kind of offense may result in a charge of involuntary manslaughter, which is a Class 5 felony. If convicted of such a charge, you could face one to 10 years in prison unless the court or a jury opts to sentence you to the lesser term of up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
Discharging a Gun in a Public Space
You may convicted of this offense if you intentionally fired your weapon in any public place. This includes a street within a city or town, any area open to public gatherings and places of business. As with the previous charges, the penalties for such an offense depend largely on whether anyone was injured as a result of the shooting. Conviction of firing your gun in certain public places, such as schools, can carry enhanced penalties.
If you fired your gun intentionally and someone was injured as a result of your action, then you may be convicted of a Class 6 felony and would face one to five years in prison or, at the discretion of the court or jury, lesser penalties of up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. If you discharged a weapon, or caused a gun to go off, on any elementary, middle, or high school’s property or on any public property with 1,000 feet of a school, you will face a Class 4 felony charge. It is important to note that there are two are two exceptions to these provisions, apart from law enforcement officers in the line of duty and others authorized by law. First, it is permissible to discharge a weapon on school property if the individual is doing so as part of a program sponsored by the school or with the permission of the school. See Section 18.2-280(B). Second, it is permissible to discharge a weapon on public property within 1,000 feet of a school if, and only if, the individual is engaged in lawful hunting. See Section 18.2-280(C).
Thomas Soldan in His Own Words
Below is a link to a question-and-answer page excerpted from an interview with Thomas Soldan in which he discusses various gun charges.
- On Gun Charges