Convicted of a Crime? What it Means for Your Hunting Season

gun rights criminal record

If you live in Washington State and you’ve been convicted of a crime, you might be worried about possessing a firearm for hunting season. In this state, any person that has been convicted of a felony or crimes associated with domestic abuse is not allowed to own or possess any type of firearm. While the ban lasts a lifetime, you may regain your right to bear arms if you petition a court of record to restore your eligibility. Read on to learn more about your rights after conviction.


Additional Restrictions & Exceptions for Firearms


In some states, there are exceptions to the ban on possessing firearms if you’ve been convicted. These exceptions may include temporary custody, target shooting, or owning collectible guns. Unfortunately, none of these are applicable in Washington State, and possessing a firearm for any of these reasons after a conviction is still a felony under Washington law. Even if you’re just house-sitting for a friend who has a gun collection or you’re visiting the range with a family member, you may be toeing the line of legal activities.


How You Might Be Affected

Even if you’ve never had an interest in guns or firearms, this type of ban might still affect your life. You should be especially careful about riding in cars or entering homes where guns may be present. You cannot enter any of these areas if you have knowledge of the presence of a firearm. It’s tough to prove whether you entered these spaces knowing there were guns present, but Washington State will attempt to prosecute if you’re found flouting these laws.


When it comes to hunting, you might prefer a crossbow or a recurve bow, but you can’t even ride in the same car with a friend who chooses to hunt with a firearm.


Getting Your Rights Back


It is possible to get your right to bear arms back even after you’ve been convicted. Depending on the gravity of the original conviction and the amount of time you’ve been free since your release from prison, or any other type of custody, a good lawyer can petition the courts on your behalf.


Eligibility Based On Crime


There are some crimes where your gun rights may never be restored, including a sexual offense or a Class A felony. There is no way to restore your gun rights following these charges under current Washington State law.


Eligibility Based On Time


If you are eligible for gun rights restoration based on the type of crime you committed, you still have to consider the amount of time that has passed since your release. Restoration isn’t possible until you fulfill a specific time period where you are crime-free. Even a single criminal offense during this entire trial period is grounds for ineligibility; you’d have to start the waiting period all over again. Time periods range depending on the severity of your crime and include:


  • Five Years for Non-Class A Felonies
  • Three Years for Misdemeanors


Make sure that you commit zero criminal violations of any type during this time period. It doesn’t matter if it’s a misdemeanor, non-violent crime, or anything else; any law violation will prohibit your gun rights restoration.


Are You Eligible?


After reviewing these two eligibility requirements, do you think that you could get your gun rights back? Determine what type of conviction you had and when you committed the crime to be sure. You can use the Washington State Patrol website to run your criminal history and double-check your record. You’ll need to pay a small fee to access a link that will provide a printable version of the report that reviews your criminal history. This is just the Washington State Patrol’s understanding of your crimes.


You can hand this history over to a lawyer who will review it and make a case for restoration, if possible.


Federal Law May Supercede State Law


If you were convicted of a domestic violence crime, federal courts will place their own restrictions on you. There is no possible way to restore your gun rights for those types of crimes under federal law. Even if your gun rights were restored under state law, the federal government supersedes state decisions in these cases.


Any time you get a firearm background check, it routes through the ATF, which is a federal organization. If you try to buy a gun from a store or authorized retailer and they run this check, the federal government will be notified.


The definition of domestic violence under federal law may also be different than the definition in your state. The personal circumstances of your domestic violence conviction in Washington may or may not be tied into the federal prohibition. Since federal definitions of domestic violence are broader, even if your rights were restored within the state, you may still run into trouble when applying for restoration federally.


Concealed Weapons Licensing


Assuming you were able to restore your gun rights under Washington State law, you still have to consider permits for concealed weapons and open carry. You are allowed to apply for a Concealed Pistol License that guarantees you can carry your pistol at all times as long as you don’t enter prohibited areas like hospitals, bars, and schools.


You must apply for a CPL through the local police chief or county sheriff to receive a five-year license. At the end of five years, your license must be renewed. As long as you meet the requirements to own a gun in Washington State, these government bodies are required to give you a Concealed Pistol License.


Concealed Carry & Domestic Violence


Since domestic violence is a pretty big hurdle to restoring your gun rights, it makes sense that it could also cause problems with your Concealed Carry License in Washington State. Even if you’re allowed to own a gun under state law, you might not be allowed to own a gun under federal law. The sheriffs and police chiefs who issue CPLs must adhere to the federal law when approving licenses. Any conviction for domestic violence on a federal level will result in a denial of your license application in Washington state. You can appeal to a Superior Court in your state, but you will need the assistance of a lawyer to properly present your case.


What This Means for You


After running your details and determining whether or not you’re eligible for the restoration of your gun rights, you may want to get in touch with a lawyer to discuss more personal details. Each case is unique, and someone well-versed in Washington State law is crucial to a successful petition. Don’t let hunting season pass you by without trying to regain your firearm rights!


Author’s Bio: Jordan is a freelance writer who writes for lawyers like Findley & Rogers. He is a second amendment rights advocate. As a proud advocate for responsible gun rights nationwide, he writes about recreational hunting as well as the latest developments in state and national legislation. 

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