Most people know that convicted felons can't own guns. This is based on state and federal laws that make it illegal for an ex felon to possess firearms. However, most people are unaware of the consequences a misdemeanor domestic violence charge or conviction can have on your gun rights in Nevada.
In this article I will discuss the loss of gun rights after domestic violence convictions and the loss of gun rights while other charges are pending, and then I will explain how a criminal defense attorney like me can help prevent the loss of your gun rights or restore your gun rights in certain instances.
The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban
If you get convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, you can't own guns anymore. No exceptions. So if you need to carry a firearm for work and you don't avoid a domestic violence conviction, you'll need to start looking for a new job.
You might be wondering what law provides such a harsh punishment for a misdemeanor offense. A federal law called the "Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban" (aka the "Lautenberg Amendment") makes it illegal for anyone convicted of domestic violence to transport, own, or use guns or ammunition. The law also makes it illegal for anyone under a restraining (protective) order to transport/own/use guns or ammo. This law applies to all 50 states, including Nevada.
A person gets "convicted" of domestic violence and loses his gun rights one of two ways. He either pleads guilty to a domestic violence charge, or he goes to trial and loses. Either way, the judge adjudicates the defendant guilty and he has a domestic violence "conviction" on his criminal record.
Some people think that after 7 years, the domestic violence conviction "drops off" a person's record. This is not true. Whether 7 years or 70 years pass, a domestic violence conviction does not just disappear automatically after any period of time.
Loss of Concealed Firearm Permit for Domestic Violence Charges
In Nevada, under state law state law NRS 202.3657, men and women over 21 years old can apply for a permit to legally carry firearms concealed on their persons. Without a permit, carrying a concealed firearm is a category C felony.
Under NRS 202.3657, Nevada residents can file an application with the county sheriff for a concealed firearms permit. The permit will be granted if the applicant meets certain minimum requirements. However, a person's concealed carry permit (and his right to carry a concealed firearm) can be revoked or suspended by the sheriff under some circumstances. What are those circumstances?
First, it should be obvious that a domestic violence conviction will cause the sheriff to revoke a person's right to carry a concealed firearm. If you can't legally own or use a firearm anymore, you can't carry it concealed either.
Second, NRS 202.3657 also allows the sheriff to revoke your concealed weapons permit if you are convicted of any crime "involving the use or threatened use of force or violence punishable as a misdemeanor." This would include convictions for simple battery and simple assault. So take note, if you are charged with misdemeanor domestic battery and plead to a lesser offense of simple battery, your concealed firearms permit will be revoked for 3 years.
Third, NRS 202.3657 lists several other legal statuses that lead to revocation of a concealed carry permit. These include stalking and DUI convictions, restraining order adjudications, suspended felonies, and sentences of probation.
Fourth, your concealed firearms permit can be revoked if you are only charged—not convicted—of domestic violence. In other words, the sheriff of Clark County can revoke your permit to carry a concealed firearm even if you have not been convicted of anything! Under NRS 202.3657, your concealed weapons permit can be revoked if there is a warrant out for your arrest or you have been formally charged with any offense that would disqualify you from carrying a concealed firearm (e.g., domestic violence, battery, stalking, etc.).
Keeping and Restoring Gun Rights
After reading all this, you're probably wondering how a criminal defense attorney can prevent you from losing your gun rights or restore your gun rights if you've lost them already.
Of course, it's best to never lose your gun rights in the first place. If you are charged with domestic violence and you own guns to hunt, for work, for home protection, or for any other important reason, then avoiding a domestic violence conviction should be a top priority for you and your defense lawyer. Similarly, if you have a concealed firearms permit, your lawyer should try to avoid a conviction for other disqualifying crimes. But what if conviction can't be avoided? What if you've already been convicted, perhaps years ago?
With respect to concealed weapons permits, if you are convicted of a disqualifying crime, you'll have to wait either 3 or 5 years before applying for your concealed weapons permit again. However, if your concealed weapons permit has been revoked or suspended due to a formal criminal charge (but not a conviction), NRS 202.3657 provides that your concealed carry permit can be restored once your charges are dismissed (or you are acquitted).
But what about when you are convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence? Do you lose your gun rights forever? No. Recall that the Lautenberg Amendment prevents anyone "convicted" of domestic violence to own or use guns. But under this law, you're not deemed "convicted" of domestic violence if your conviction has been "expunged." What is expungement?
All states have some way to remove criminal convictions from your record, either through expungement or record sealing. Nevada has record sealing, but when you seal your record, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department actually deletes the arrest entry from your online criminal record, called your SCOPE ("Shared Computer Operations for Protection and Enforcement"). Nevada's record sealing statute is NRS 179.245.
When is someone eligible to seal his record for domestic violence and regain his gun rights? According to NRS 179.245, a person can file a petition to seal his record on a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction after 7 years. The 7 year period starts running from the date the case was closed or the date the defendant was released from jail, whichever is later. So for instance, if you were convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence on 1/1/2007 you might think you can seal your record on 1/1/2014. This is not correct unless your case was closed on that date and you didn't get sentenced to jail time.
Following conviction, a domestic violence case is closed only 2 ways: (1) after the defendant completes the court-ordered requirements (including 6 months counseling, community service, and fine); or (2) after the defendant is sentenced to serve time in jail. In other words, the case is only "closed" when there are no additional court dates, and the defendant has either done everything the court asks and walks free, the defendant fails to do what he was ordered and gets sentenced to suspended jail time, or the defendant took a sentence of jail time up front instead of getting released to complete counseling, fines, and community service.
For felony domestic violence convictions, a defendant would have to wait 12 or 15 years to seal his record, depending on whether the conviction was for a category C felony or a category B felony, respectively.
Keep in mind, record sealing is not automatic. You have to file a petition with the court where you were convicted. You can file the paperwork yourself, but you're better off hiring a criminal defense attorney like me to do the work for you. Of course, if you haven't been convicted yet, I'd love to be able to save you from a conviction for domestic violence, if possible. Give me a call and I'll tell you what we can accomplish in your case.