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Can You Live with a Felon if You Own a Firearm?

Key Takeaways:

  • Under federal law, felons are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.
  • Some states return a felon's civil rights to own a gun after serving their sentence or a waiting period.
  • If you live with a felon, you have to make sure gun access is limited so they don't have constructive possession.

Most felons are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. However, felons may end up living with people who own a gun. For example, if you own a firearm and your family member goes to prison for a year, what are your options?

Gun laws can depend on state law. Many states allow felons to get back their gun ownership rights after a certain period. For more information about gun possession charges where you live, talk to a criminal defense attorney for legal advice.

Can a Felon Own a Firearm?

Under federal law, a convicted felon cannot own or possess a firearm. Federal law also prohibits the possession of ammunition. Many states follow federal guidance on firearm ownership for felony convictions.

State and federal laws may also prohibit others from the possession of firearms, including misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, people with restraining orders, and serious mental conditions.

Who Is a Felon Under State and Federal Law?

A felon is someone who was convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year. Even if the individual was sentenced to less than a year or got out of jail early, it is still a felony if the crime is punishable by a sentence of more than one year.

For example, if a conviction for grand theft auto is punishable by up to two years in prison, but you are only sentenced to 9 months, you may still be a felon. Talk to your parole officer or criminal defense lawyer if you’re not sure if your offense counts as a felony.

When Is a Gun Considered in Possession?

When is a gun considered to be in possession? Possession is not limited to physically in someone’s hands. Generally, a firearm may be considered in possession if the felon has actual or constructive possession. Active possession can include holding a gun in your pocket or where you have direct access.

Constructive possession can be an area in your control. For example, it may be a possession if you have a gun in the trunk of your car or your desk drawer. More than one person can be in possession of something at the same time if they both know of its presence and have the power to control it.

What Types of Firearms Are Prohibited?

Under federal law, a firearm is any weapon that can expel a projectile through an explosion. This includes:

  • Handgun
  • Rifles
  • Shotguns
  • Starter guns

Even if the gun is not loaded, an unloaded firearm is still a firearm.

What If the Gun Is Locked Up?

Locking up a gun may not be enough to prevent possession. If the felon knows the gun safe’s combination or knows where the keys are kept, they may have the power to control a gun.

If a felon lives with you, consider transferring the firearm to another person or location where the felon cannot access the guns.

What Are the Penalties for a Felon in Possession?

A felon in possession of a firearm is a serious felony offense under federal law. The maximum sentence for an offender possessing a firearm is 10 years imprisonment. However, the penalty can increase to a 15-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for certain violent felonies or drug criminal records.

There may be additional penalties for illegal possession of a stolen firearm, large-capacity magazines, or using a gun in the commission of a crime.

If you help a felon get access to a firearm, you may also face criminal charges. Criminal aiding and abetting a felon to get a firearm can also be a felony charge.

When Can a Felon Get Back Their Firearm Rights?

Many states give gun rights back to felons after a waiting period, usually from five to 15 years. Some states immediately give convicted felons back their civil rights after serving their sentence. Other states allow felons to own rifles or black powder guns but not handguns. While other states restore the right to bear arms but not for certain violent felons. If you live with a felon, make sure they don’t have access to your guns, or you could face criminal penalties. If you are charged with aiding or abetting a felon to get possession of a firearm, talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

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