Virginia law allows the lawful possession of many types of firearms, and many Virginians own and use them responsibly. But unlawful possession of a firearm constitutes a serious criminal offense under state law. Some firearm possession criminal offenses are charged as felonies, which can carry significant penalties upon conviction. If you own or possess a firearm in Virginia, it’s important to know about the four main firearm possession crimes in Virginia.
The Four Main Firearm Possession Offenses in VA
In Virginia, firearm possession offenses fall into four major categories. The first category of offenses relates to possessing firearms in certain prohibited places. Examples of offenses under this category include:
- Possessing a firearm in a house of worship (Va. Code §18.2-283)
- Possessing a firearm in a courthouse (Va. Code §18.2-283.1)
- Possessing a firearm in an airport (Va. Code §18.2-287.01)
- Possessing a firearm on school property (Va. Code §18.2-308.1)
- Carrying a loaded firearm in public (Va. Code §18.2-287.4)
The next category of offenses relates to the possession of prohibited firearms. Types of firearms prohibited under Virginia law include:
- Machine guns (Va. Code §18.2-290)
- Sawed-off shotguns or rifles (Va. Code §18.2-300.A and Va. Code §18.2-300.B)
- “Streetsweepers” (Va. Code §18.2-308.8)
- Plastic firearms (Va. Code §18.2-308.5)
The third category of firearms possession offenses in Virginia involves persons prohibited from possessing firearms. Categories of persons legally prohibited from possessing firearms in Virginia include:
- Minors (Va. Code §18.2-308.7)
- Non-citizens carrying concealed firearms or assault firearms (Va. Code §18.2-308.2:01)
- Persons acquitted of crimes by reason of insanity or mental defect (Va. Code §18.2-308.1:1)
- Persons adjudicated incompetent or mentally incapacitated (Va. Code §18.2-308.1:2)
- Involuntarily committed persons (Va. Code §18.2-308.1:3)
- Persons subject to protective domestic violence orders (Va. Code §18.2-308.1:4)
- Felons (Va. Code §18.2-308.2)
The final type of firearms possession charge under Virginia law, codified under Va. Code §18.2-308.4, involves the possession of firearms while also in possession of certain drugs, Schedule I or II controlled substances, or the use or threatening display of a firearm while committing certain drug offenses.
Defenses to Firearm Possession Charges
If you’ve been charged with a firearms possession offense, there might be factual and legal defenses available in your case. Your firearms possession defense attorney might argue or document any of the following:
- You did not possess the firearm. The prosecution must prove that you had actual or constructive possession of the firearm. Actual possession means that you had it on your person. Construction possession can be established by showing that the firearm was located somewhere you had access to and that you demonstrated the ability and intent to control the weapon.
- The item at issue does not meet the legal definition of a firearm. Virginia law defines what constitutes a firearm specifically. These items include assault weapons, handguns, semi-automatic folding stock shotguns (“streetsweepers”), sawed-off shotguns or rifles, plastic firearms, machine guns, and spring guns.
- You did not knowingly possess the firearm. If you can prove that another person put a firearm within your control without your knowledge or consent, such as by slipping it into your bag or putting it into your vehicle, the prosecution may not be able to demonstrate the required criminal intent.
- You had a valid license to possess the firearm. This might serve as a defense to a charge of possession of a firearm by persons prohibited.
How Our Firm Could Help
An experienced criminal defense attorney from Shannon & Associates can help with your firearm possession charge by:
- Reviewing the facts and circumstances of your case, including conducting our own investigation rather than relying on the prosecution’s evidence
- Helping you understand your legal rights and options, as well as the possible and likely outcomes in your case
- Identifying possible legal and factual defenses in order to reduce or dismiss your charges before trial
- Negotiating with the prosecution to secure a favorable plea agreement that can significantly reduce your sentencing exposure if that’s the best choice for you
- Advocating on your behalf at trial if you choose to defend yourself against your charges
If you’ve been charged with firearm possession in VA, act quickly to protect your rights, reputation, and freedom. Call or contact Shannon & Associates today for a free, confidential consultation.