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Domestic violence convictions' effect on gun rights in WA

Domestic violence is a serious crime, and charges can be brought against a Spokane resident at either the felony or misdemeanor level. If one is a victim of domestic violence, he or she can suffer both physically and emotionally. If one has been falsely accused of the crime, that individual can also face immense challenges including overzealous prosecution, biased juries and harsh legal penalties.

One of the penalties associated with being convicted of domestic violence charges is restrictions on one's ability to own a firearm. An amendment to the 1968 Federal Gun Control Act essentially bans individuals who have been convicted of even misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from owning a gun. If a man or woman who has been convicted of such an offense obtains a gun, he or she could face weapons charges and the associated penalties. The penalties become more severe if that same type of individual is accused of certain felony offenses involving the use of a gun, such as robbery, assault or murder.

This change in the law became effective back in 1996, but many local residents may not even be aware of it. It may surprise some that even if a person was convicted before the amendment went into effect, the provisions still apply. Thus, if someone was convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime before 1996, they are still unable to own a firearm, with very few exceptions. Some of these exceptions include a person's conviction being expunged or set aside, as well as an individual's case being pardoned.

Washington State residents are subject to both federal and state law, which prohibit owning a firearm if one has been convicted of domestic violence. Those who are suspects or defendants in weapon-related crimes may consider utilizing a local criminal defense attorney. An experienced lawyer can protect one's rights, ensure all evidence is presented and negotiate strategically on their client's behalf.

Source: Offices of the United States Attorneys, "Restrictions on the possession of firearms by individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence," accessed July 11, 2015

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