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Written by Attorney Seth Morris


When you have been arrested and charged with a domestic violence offense in California, you may have many unanswered questions about what to expect next from your case.

This is particularly true if you have concerns regarding the impact such charges could have on your gun rights.

How Are Gun Rights At Risk When Accused of Domestic Violence in California?

Under the law, when police are called to a domestic violence scene, they are obligated to confiscate any firearms considered in plain view, used in an alleged domestic violence incident, or found during a legal search. Police will then be required to retain possession of your firearms until your case concludes.

If the domestic violence charges against you are dismissed or dropped, law enforcement officials will return your guns to you. However, if you were convicted or found to be in illegal possession of the guns in question, it is possible your firearms would be destroyed.

Individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence convictions will be prohibited from owning or obtaining a firearm under California Penal Code § 12021. Federal law prohibits individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning or possessing guns.

What Happens When a Protective Order Is Filed?

When you have initially been arrested for domestic violence, responding officers can request an emergency protective order (EPO). EPOs remain for up to seven days or until the alleged victim files for a temporary restraining order (TRO). Anyone named in an EPO or TRO is prohibited from possessing or purchasing guns.

What Happens If a Protective Order Becomes Permanent?

If a protective order becomes permanent, you will be prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. The length of time your gun rights will be restricted will vary based on the crime you were charged with and whether you faced charges at the state or federal levels.

What Happens to Your Gun Rights After a Domestic Violence Conviction?

Your firearm rights will be restricted when you are found guilty of a domestic violence offense. Under the law, you will no longer be allowed to receive, possess, own, or purchase guns, clips, ammunition, magazines, or other gun parts or equipment.

You will also be required to fill out a Prohibited Persons Relinquishment Form from the California Department of Justice and Bureau of Firearms. This form requires you to list your guns, including:

  • Barrel length
  • Type of gun
  • Serial number
  • Make and model
  • Origin
  • Color and identification marks
  • Caliber
  • Location of the gun

While dealing with the fallout of a conviction, you can authorize someone to maintain possession or ownership of your guns if your firearm rights have been terminated indefinitely. This party is known as the designee. This party will be responsible for transferring, selling, or surrendering them to law-enforcement officials where necessary.

Process for Relinquishing Gun Rights

If you are found guilty of a domestic violence offense and must relinquish your guns, your designee will be required to surrender your firearms within five days.

If you are already in jail at the time of your conviction, your designee will be required to dispose of your firearms within 14 days of your conviction. Upon surrender, the designee will receive a disposition receipt from law-enforcement officials or the firearms dealer.

How Can You Get Your Gun Rights Back?

Restoring your firearm rights may be challenging in the state of California. Your attorney will work tirelessly to preserve your gun rights by helping you clear your name of the domestic violence allegations against you.

In some cases, working with the state’s prosecuting attorney may be in your best interests, as they may have the authority to reduce or dismiss the charges against you. Your attorney may be able to argue that your charges should be reduced to battery or criminal trespass as opposed to a domestic violence offense. Reduced charges could allow you to retain your firearm rights altogether.

If you are found guilty of a domestic violence offense and your gun rights are restricted, you will need to wait for the time limit to pass before you can get your gun rights back. Alternatively, you may be able to work with your attorney to get your record expunged, depending on the details of your case.

How Long Could Your Gun Rights Be Limited?

How long your gun rights will be limited depends on the severity of the charge you were convicted of and the level at which you were tried.

For example, suppose you were convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense. In that case, you could be eligible to expunge your record after the waiting period has passed, allowing you to bypass the standard 10-year loss of gun rights.

However, if you were convicted of a felony domestic violence offense, it is more likely that your firearm rights would be suspended indefinitely. The same is true for those convicted at the federal level instead of the state level.

Contact a California Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help Today

Your gun rights could be on the line if you have been charged with a domestic violence offense.

Start working on your defense strategy so you can clear your name and protect your firearm rights when you contact an experienced California criminal defense lawyer at Morris Law, A Criminal Defense Firm for help. Schedule your confidential consultation as soon as today by calling our office or completing our secured contact form.