When it comes to criminal justice, there is no secret that convictions come with penalties. While many understand the possibility of fines, fees, jail time, driver’s license suspension, and other penalties handed down by the court in DUI cases, few understand just how far-reaching the repercussions and collateral consequences of a conviction can truly be.
At Sutton & Janelle, PLLC, we make it a point to help clients understand the full scope of penalties they face when charged with a DUI offense – as it often provides the insight they need to know what’s at stake, and why legal representation is so important. Aside from criminal penalties, administrative disciplinary action concerning a driver’s license, and other short- and long-term consequences affecting finances, employment, and more, we also discuss whether or not a DUI conviction can trigger the loss of certain civil rights, including the loss of one’s right to purchase and possess a firearm.
Because firearms are heavily regulated, their use and can be restricted for certain individuals, and particularly those charged with or convicted of certain crimes. Both state and federal laws make it illegal for individuals deemed “prohibited persons” to purchase, own, or possess firearms. Common examples of a “prohibited person” may include:
- Individuals convicted of a felony offense
- Misdemeanor domestic violence convictions
- Being subject to a domestic restraining / protective order
- Individuals indicted on charges for offenses that carry a minimum 1-year prison sentence
- Individuals deemed “fugitives from justice”
- A person addicted to controlled substances
- Unlawful residents in the U.S.
- Military members with dishonorable discharges
How a DUI Can Result in a Loss of Firearm Rights
Based on these and other qualifying circumstances, most drivers accused or convicted of misdemeanor DUI do not face a loss of their right to purchase, own, and possess a firearm. However, there are some DUI cases where such a penalty can result. Examples may include:
- Multiple Offenses – In some cases, being convicted of DUI with previous convictions on your record can result in felony charges. For example, drivers in West Virginia charged with their 3rd DUI (meaning they have two previous DUI conviction within the past 10 years), can be charged with a felony. As such, a conviction for their third DUI would make them a “prohibited person” under federal law, and therefore unable to purchase, own, or possess a firearm.
- Felony DUI – Just as convictions for a third DUI can result in a loss of your firearm rights, a conviction for any DUI offense prosecuted as a felony can also prevent you from possessing a firearm. Although every case is different, prosecutors commonly choose to levy felony DUI charges in cases involving accidents that result in injury or death (depending on the individual circumstances involved).
- Military Service – Military servicemembers face a number of adverse consequences and penalties when convicted of crimes that many civilians do not. This includes the potential for a dishonorable discharge. While a conviction for one DUI may not warrant such a discharge (although it commonly does result in disciplinary action), a conviction for a second DUI or a DUI involving certain aggravating circumstances may. This means that even if a DUI conviction would not necessarily result in a civilian losing their right to purchase and possess a firearm, that same conviction could prevent former servicemembers from owning firearms if it also resulted in their dishonorable discharge.
- Fugitive from Justice – Individuals who are classified as a “fugitive from justice” are those who fail to comply with court terms and / or fail to appear in court, and have warrants issued for their arrest. Even if the underlying charge is a misdemeanor DUI that wouldn’t ordinarily result in losing your firearm rights, becoming a fugitive from justice in connection to that case would make you a “prohibited person” under state and federal laws.
- Other Crimes – DUI cases can involve any number of unique circumstances, including additional crimes. This may be the case when individuals are stopped under suspicion of DUI, and are also implicated for crimes that may involve certain drug offenses, domestic violence, or felony evading. Depending on whether or not these additional crimes are felonies or otherwise warrant a classification as a “prohibited person,” a loss of firearm rights may also result.
The loss of civil rights, including one’s right to own a firearm, is a substantial penalty posed by convictions for serious crimes, and helps illustrate the far-reaching consequences that can accompany DUI allegations. Because every case is different, understanding whether you are at risk for losing your firearm rights, as well as understanding the additional penalties you face, is a matter that can be accurately assessed by experienced criminal defense attorneys like those at Sutton & Janelle, PLLC. Partner J. Mark Sutton has extensive experience handling DUI cases since 1996, and is a member of the DUI Defense Lawyers Association.
If you would like more information about a recent DUI arrest, the penalties you face, and how our proven DUI lawyers can protect your rights and future, do not hesitate to call (304) 867-0049 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation. Our Berkeley County DUI lawyers proudly serve clients throughout West Virginia and Maryland.