The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects your right to keep and bear a firearm. However, under a new law that took effect on January 1, 2019, a conviction for domestic violence in California strips you of this right unless, under limited circumstances, you are pardoned or have your conviction expunged.
A Change to PC § 273.5 – Corporal Injury on a Spouse/Cohabitant
In September 2018, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a change to California’s Penal Code affecting the Second Amendment rights of persons convicted of a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 273.5, which prohibits the willful infliction of a corporal injury on a person who falls into the category of domestic relationship, such as spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends, children, and roommates. Before this new law took effect, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor under this law meant, it would be illegal for you to possess or own a firearm for 10 years following the conviction.
As of January 1, 2019, that 10-year ban has been increased to a lifetime ban. Under Penal Code section 29805(b), if you were previously convicted of a misdemeanor under 273.5, and you are later found to own, purchase, receive or have in your possession any firearm, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to a maximum of 364 days in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Lifetime Ban Under Federal Law
The new law brings California’s law in line with an already existing federal ban on gun ownership for misdemeanor domestic violence convictions. In 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal lifetime ban on firearm possession for a misdemeanor conviction under Penal Code section 273.5 in the case of United States v. Chovan. Chovan was convicted of misdemeanor spousal abuse in 1996. At that time, California law prohibited him from gun possession for 10 years. Federal law under 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(9) removed this right for life.
In 2010, more than 10 years after his misdemeanor conviction, Chovan was charged with illegally possessing a firearm. In moving to dismiss the charge, he argued that under a “civil rights restored exception,” the federal law did not apply to him because California law provided restoration of his firearm rights after 10 years. The federal district court denied his motion, and he conditionally pled guilty preserving his right to appeal.
The Ninth Circuit rejected Chovan’s exception claim holding that his civil rights had never been “lost” and therefore could not have been “restored” as a result of California’s time limit on firearm possession. The panel reasoned that his original misdemeanor conviction had not taken away his “core civil rights” such as voting, jury participation, or the right to hold public office.
On Chovan’s Second Amendment challenge, the panel upheld federal law finding that the government has an important interest in “preventing domestic gun violence,” and that keeping guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence is substantially related to that goal. Chovan subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court, but the Court declined to hear his case.
Can You Restore Your Gun Rights after a Domestic Violence Conviction?
There may be some options for you to restore your gun rights if you were convicted of a domestic violence offense. Our skilled domestic violence defense attorneys can help you find out if you are eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and/or Governor’s Pardon. One of these relief options may allow you to restore your gun rights.
The process for applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and/or Governor’s Pardon is highly complex. You will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in order for you to have your best chance to have your application for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and/or Governor’s Pardon granted.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich For More Information
A domestic violence conviction can have lifelong, devastating consequences beyond a jail sentence. If you or someone you love has been accused of a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence offense, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Wallin & Klarich today. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 35 years of experience successfully defending our clients facing domestic violence charges.
We may be able to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed. Or, we may be able to negotiate a sentence that relieves you of some of the many other consequences of a conviction. Our first priority is to get you the best possible result in your case.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced and skilled Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will be there when you call.